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The John Troupe Story

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Even when John Troupe wasn't himself, he, through it all, was still part of a family. Within that one distinction was an immeasurable amount of hope.

In the Bible it says that the race is not given to the swift, nor the strong, but the one that endures to the end. Although my dad was at one time very swift and strong, he never bowed out.
~Ben Troupe

When you look in the mirror, what do you see? For Ben and John Troupe, though the elder didn't always know it, the answer was largely the same thing. Both men, along with the whole family, have a passion for helping others. Both men have a servant's heart. The proliferation of that incredible potential has come at varied rates. Through a career where he earned first-team All-American honors at Florida, was selected in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft and played for three professional teams, Ben has made it a point to put others first. That selflessness was a taught and learned behavior.

Ben, even with John's missteps, followed and led his father alike. Even when dad wasn't there, he was an example. Now, as a 60-year old making a difference, he's an inspiration. 

A Vidalia, Georgia-native, John grew up with an outside jumpshot as sweet as the onions in the nearby field. Charismatic and thoughtful, life took John into the United States Army. He, raising a family, settled in as a tank driver, also emerging as a local basketball legend at Fort Hood. There was, as is the case with any young adult, a learning curve along the way. From time to time, decisions took John off course. Then came the crash. Struggles with substance abuse pulled John away from his family, ultimately resulting in arrests, incarceration and worse. Problems mounted and magnified around him.

Simply put, John wasn't himself; sometimes not even a shell of who he used to be. There were stretches of time when John wouldn't show up at home. Though there was a sense of concern, neither Ben or his siblings knew, acutely, what was going on. They just missed their daddy, a man they all looked up whether processed it all or not. When Ben was in high school, his mother Cheryl sat the family down and told the children, Ben, Lucus and Nikki, with baby Carriana in-tow, that John was in a dark place and was dealing with drug addiction. It was a startling reality check, one that came with many more questions than answers.

"You never think of the worst when it comes to your family or your father. We honestly didn't know what was up, but we know things weren't right. Mom told us all the details and we were shocked," Ben acknowledged.

There were interventions. There was rehab. There was jail. Results, for John, were mixed, at best. Meanwhile, the years turned over. Ben, at 6'5'', emerged as one of the state's top tight end prospects, signing with the University of Florida on a full athletic scholarship. Sometimes, John was there. Other times, he was not. While John's presence wavered, the standard he held for his children did not. Who John was and what he did was different than, at the bottom of his heart, what he felt and what he believed.  

It was an unfathomable double-life that John lived, disappearing for days, but determined, somehow, not to fade away completely.

"He was two people. It was Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde," Troupe recalled. "It was hard to process everything."

Sadly, John only attended a few of Ben's college games. He was at even less of his NFL outings. When John was involved, however, the moments, interestingly, were meaningful. Unfortunately, the only consistency to his actions was abrupt inconsistency, a suddenness that couldn't be explained. One night in Nashville, Ben came home from work with the Tennessee Titans to find his father, without notice, at his house. John took a sudden bus trip to his son's home, using only his memory from a prior trip for directions.

People, by nature, are paradoxical. Substance abuse can add complications that are almost impossible to control or predict. In John's case, his fight with addiction was, often, very private. Ben and the rest of the Troupe family didn't necessarily see the act, they only saw the actor. As life went on, John's, quite literally, was all over the place. There were certainly times, though few and far between, when he was the man he hoped to be. The opportunities missed are ones that John, nor his loved ones, can ever get back. 

Even when John wasn't himself, he, through it all, was still part of a family. Within that one distinction was an immeasurable amount of hope.  

What is interesting about John Troupe is that he has always been a leader. From his time on the basketball court, to his time in the military, to, later, running his own puck-wooding businesses and helping to raise grandchildren, John is a motivated, mindful champion of others. Those lessons are the ones Ben, making his father proud through a wide array of volunteer efforts of his own, remembers most. Whether celebrating a birthday party at the prison or talking, briefly, on the phone, Ben and his siblings largely saw the best in their dad. 

Out of his dark shadows, the rest of the world is now getting to see John's shining example.   

Faith and family, the bedrocks John sometimes turned his back on as a young man, became the framework for his stunning new foundation. Long searching his own soul for inspiration, John, instead, started looking around. What he saw were his reasons why. The fight back was long, hard and painstaking, a journey John shared with those closest to him. This holiday season, John has been clean for over seven years. 

"The first thing I had to do...I had to change my life. The only way I could change my life is to change my life." John shared in an emotional interview with Ben on his afternoon radio show. "I wanted to do better and I thought about people like yourself and your brother, how you guys continued to influence me through your actions. Every now and then, you guys would call me and tell me about those things you remembered that you loved about your daddy and how it impacted you to be hard-working men and respectable."

Thriving in the prime of his life, John is an active father, grandfather and husband. He now smiles at the simple things, like his granddaugher, lovingly and inexplicably, calling him "grandma", a nickname that just might stick. John is deeply involved in his church and his community. Back on track, John is a man on a mission. You could say, as he does, that he is born again.

"I began to focus on what I read in the Bible that talks about stop lending on your own understanding and start acknowledging Him in all of your ways and He will direct your path," John explained. "And that began to stir me on the inside." 

Flames were stoked for John once again; these desires, however, were much different.

Well-known for his football fame, accomplishments which include being a member of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame, Ben should probably be equally recognized for his philanthropy. The former NFL star has eagerly given his time to national organizations like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Read to America, Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude's Hospital and Shands Hospital, in addition to countless local charities like the Cpl. John Stalvey Foundation and Hearts for Heroes, including hosting his own fundraising weekend during his playing days. Recently, Ben spoke to and visited with roughly 200 Georgia Army National Guard soldiers ahead of an overseas deployment.

Ben's perspective was shaped at an early age by his father, with John emphasizing a sense of service to each of his children. Recently for John, that notion came with a nudge. 

"One night, I was laying down in the bed at my house, and God said start talking to some guys that have lived like you, let's come together and see if we can help the community and other men and women to recognize that it is going to take that same type of influence and it's got to come through God's principles, his concepts," he shared.

Those teachings, John's life, has now come full-circle. Not long after succumbing to the worst the world has to offer, and very nearly letting it take him all of the way down, a man once running from trouble is now valiantly leading people right through it. John, with faith and family, has overcome, a wisdom he is now tirelessly sharing with others. The John Troupe story is just beginning; already it's a testimony. His experiences are a powerful example for who, what, when, where, how and why.

John currently heads an organization called "Men Reaching Men", an open group with a simple premise: to seek, serve and support. Numbers are growing. So, too, is the impact.

"It consists on ministers, deacons, businessmen, hard-working men in the community and surrounding communities. We realize that we have a big problem in the community and we have gotten together and created this group. We really want to reform the men of the community in order to stop violence, eliminate drug use and educate on marital unity and the teaching of God," he detailed. "It really has been a major blessing."

Not just making up for lost time, John is paying it forward. His audience sometimes includes the next generation. 

"We are talking to them about just normal manners. We are talking about being generous, gratitude, gratefulness, being thankful, sharing, we are talking about praising one another," John continued. "We are talking about a system that has worked for me."

Trials and tribulations have, for lack of a better word, trained John for his current role. Though John isn't proud of it, he is an expert on what poor choices can do. Who John was is now an important part of who he is. When John speaks, he does so from a place of purpose. John has always had a desire to help those around him. He now has a perspective and a platform that corresponds. As John has gotten stronger in his faith, his roots have reached places he, just a decade ago, could have never imagined.

This is a tale, from a hometown hero, that needs to be told. 

"My passion is about others, it's not about me. And I know that, in order for me to pursue my passions, there had to be some major changes. So I stopped liking me the way I was and started motivating myself to who I really was, the passion that I have, I love people. That's basically what stirred me to want to make that impact, I just really wanted to change," John shared. "God began to grab hold of me and give me something that he knew that I needed: love."

Just as one wrong turn led to another in a previous life, John's positivity has come in waves. His momentum has resulted in a movement. 

"I began to stay on my knees and back away from those things that were calling me. When I did that, I started achieving things. The first thing I achieved was, I got away from the things that were hindering me. There I am, I got away from those things. And I feel better about myself. So, now, what do I do?" John asked. "I continue to stick with those people who were helping me go in the right direction and I began to receive some strength. As I began to receive some strength, it helped me to humble on down. As I humbled on down, I was able to see."

Quite literally, John's legacy has helped lead his comeback. Ben, after five years in the NFL following his storied run in Gainesville, is now a daily co-host as a popular personality on multiple ESPN Radio affiliates. Lucas is a decorated war hero, a retired Marine with multiple tours of duty overseas and a bronze star on his resume. Nikki has a Master's Degree and is a aiding families as a social worker. Carriana, the youngest, is currently in college. When John was in need of direction, his children, and his family, helped show him the way.

Standing by John even when he wasn't there, Cheryl has been alongside her husband like a shadow. Most notably, her faith and resolve pulled John through. In a family with a former NFL tight end, a Marine and a forrestor, Cheryl, with faith that can move mountains, is the strongest.   

"I made up in my mind to follow that loved one that always had me embraced, my wife. By doing so, her encouragement, her love and her steadfastness reminded me of the things that I didn't need to do and the things I needed to do. It got down on the inside of me," he shared. "Once I moved myself out of the way completely, everything started lining up. When I got to a place where I was able to see, my passion began to flood to heart, my thoughts concerning others who were struggling in life like I had."

What John is doing now is what he was always meant to do. He is the person he long wanted, hoped and prayed to be; the person Ben, his siblings and his mother have long seen. John, like each of his children and his wife, is a leader, showing people in need the way. In his various speaking engagements, Ben will often say that to much is given, much is required. It's a responsibility that John is grateful to have.   

The vision has been in place for years. What John has, with the support of his faith and family, is the way. In His steps, forget Ben's forty yard dash time, that straight and narrow is a pathway John gladly sprints down each and every day. Freedom is now the fruits of his labor. After a generation of plight and distress, John, literally and figuratively, has rebuilt himself from the ground up.  

"I always had a little motto: 'this world is so big, some of it it must be mine'. I knew that, in order for that to come pass, I had to put myself in the right position, by doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do," John added. "I stayed in church, I stayed on my knees."

This holiday season is one of great appreciation for John and the Troupe family. Time together is so much important than time lost and, his heart and his head in the right place, John absolutely cherishes every moment. Christmas 2018, for John, is special. He enjoys his kids, their kids and the smiles on everyone's faces. The smile on his own is, in some ways, the most important.   

Red and green to orange blue, part of this season's celebration takes place, proverbially, at least, in the endzone. It's been a fun football season for Florida, the Troupes, sprinkled all across the state of Georgia, included. Though John missed most of Ben's games during his All-American stint with the Gators, he has been a regular at recent Florida-Georgia games. When Ben was inducted into the series Hall of Fame in 2016, the whole family, including John, was there. This fall, he, wearing an all-blue Jumpman outfit, was in the stands and Ben was in the box; fittingly, they were under the same bright lights.

Amidst all of the festivities, it's a time of reflection for John. This time when his thoughts wander, they don't go far. 

"I am most thankful, first of all, for me getting to know my Heavenly Father, a personal relationship with Him. Next, my family. Family is the most important thing in my life other than my personal relationship with Christ Jesus. I'm so grateful to be in a place to show my love," John smiled. "To embrace my children, to embrace my grandchildren, to embrace friends and loved ones."

As a younger man, John, sometimes, didn't know where he was. Where John is today isn't a place on the map, it's a place in his soul. John is the man he was always supposed to be, the man his children and wife, deep down, always knew he was. An advocate and an ally, a pioneer and a principal, John, at this point, is a many things to many people. Love underlines them all.

Time tests everyone and John, whose "whole head is grey" as Lucus puts it, has scars that will be with him forever. What he also has is salvation, manifest destiny in the opportunity of a second chance. Maybe he once thought he wouldn't get here, but John, this Christmas, will look around and see his sons, daughters and grandchildren. It's his charge to see them, and those just like them, through. 

"Perseverance...you must always have a steadfast mind to do what is right. When you are doing things in secret, then when somebody is looking that is not you. Then that is not your character. You need to make up in your mind, today, to be real. Be completely real," John nodded. "Then, when you see where your flaws are not encouraging someone to do positive things, that is when you turn, turn to Jesus."

On an important mission, John has a clear message.   

"I can't tell nobody nothing but this, more than anything else in the world, turn to Jesus. His principles turned me around," John concluded. "I began to be steadfast in His word and it turned me around. And I'm holding onto that and God has been so good to me and I'm so thankful and grateful. Turn to Jesus. He won't withhold any good things from you. He will strengthen you where you are weak. He will build you up when you are torn down in your mind and your heart. How do I know? I'm a living witness that he will do it. I would encourage everyone to hold onto what is positive and let go of negativity."    

John is happy, healthy and home. He is not a perfect man, but he is a good man. That end result is just the beginning.

"In the Bible it says that the race is not given to the swift, nor the strong, but the one that endures to the end," Ben smiled. "Although my dad was at one time very swift and strong, he never bowed out. My only hope is that I have another son so that he can be John Wesley II."

Leadership comes in many forms. Sometimes, for both father and son, it's who you become.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports