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Troupe Talk: Player Empowerment

By Ben Troupe
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Former Florida All-American Ben Troupe on college football players pushing for social change.

2020 will be deemed as the year to remember. The world at a standstill. So much uncertainty in college athletics. So much unknown. Gradually, we banded together slowly but surely and college football has made a comeback. It's been a beautiful thing to watch. A rebirth so to speak. There are so many things to take away from this crazy year in college sports, one where the season is just now starting. One storyline that prominently stands out is player empowerment.

Yes, the players. Sometimes we call them student-athletes. The product. The revenue generating stream. The brand ambassadors. The reason we watch. The reason we cheer. The reason we care. Those people. These incredible intelligent young men have decided that enough is enough. No more status quo on amateurism. No more going with the flow with regards to social justice. No more not using their voice, platform, and collective power. At the very least, player demands are now being taken more seriously. 

The work of Kylin Hill, a star running back for Mississippi State, not just politicians or elected officials, helped get the state flag in Mississippi changed. Like civil rights leaders before him, Kylin said no more and helped prompt real change. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has been vocal in stating that while he is a white man and doesn't experience racial injustice, he stands with his black teammates who face it everyday. That while he has privilege that is not shared by his black teammates, he stands with them and even marches with them. Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson called out his coach for inaccuracies about meeting with his players. He said no more, then started various teamwide initiatives.  

What I can appreciate the most about all of these instances is that all of these young men made a decision to act. They made a decision to respond. They did what had to be done. They did what needed to be done. Most importantly, they made sure that by their own unwillingness to accept what was happening they created change. I was told it is much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I am glad that none of these men asked anybody for permission, they just acted. They didn't strike while the iron was hot, they made it hot by striking it. What they showed their fellow teammates and fellow college football brothers is that we can show them who we are by being who we are -- as people, not just athletes.

The torch has been passed. A new normal is here and it's not going away. Players are standing for something and are done falling for anything. No more going with the flow. These student-athletes have created their own flow. They say the greatest misconception about power is that most people don't think they have it. Today's players have proven that myth to be false. They have shown that either you are going to help them as they look to create a new and better way or that you are just in the way.

All of college football might not be back, but player empowerment is and it is here to stay. I am proud of those men. I can't wait for all that is next.

Ben Troupe - Troupe played tight end for the Florida Gators from 2000-2003, and earned first-team All-SEC recognition and first-team All-American honors from ESPN, Rivals and Sports Illustrated as a senior. After a standout college career, Troupe was selected 40th overall in the 2004 NFL Draft, the first pick of the Tennessee Titans that spring. Currently, Troupe is a representative for the NFL Ambassadors via the College Outreach Program and the USA Football Youth and High School Program while also serving as an assistant master trainer for Head's Up coaching initiative. Troupe can be heard on ESPN Coastal's "Three & Out" with B.J. Bennett and Kevin Thomas.