Larry Blakeney came to his own roast already grateful, knowing so many of his good friends and former players would be there to share some stories and a few laughs about a career that has seen him transform Troy from a Division II contender to a Sun Belt power.
He thought he knew what to expect. Then came the unexpected.
A proclamation was read renaming the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium: Larry Blakeney Field.
"If I had known, I probably wouldn't have gone," the self-deprecating Blakeney joked in a phone interview from his office.
"I had no idea they were going to do that. Most of the time, you're dead and gone before anybody names anything for you. I just feel very blessed to have this opportunity. Now we’ve got to try to find out how to win with that new stadium moniker on there. I don’t want to jinx it -- I may take that sign down. We have got a pretty good home record, so I want to be sure we want to take pride in that and keep it going."
Blakeney has been the constant that has kept Troy going. After spending 14 seasons in various roles at Auburn, Blakeney took on the head-coaching job at Troy in 1990. He oversaw the transition from Division II to FCS to FBS -- joining Gene McDowell at UCF as the only coaches to successfully make that move. All the while, Blakeney accumulated one winning season after another. Indeed, he has had winning seasons in 15 of his 20 years as a head coach.
His Troy teams have won or shared five straight Sun Belt conference crowns, becoming the most recognizable and dominant team in that league. But this past season was not without its share of ups and downs. A tough 52-35 home loss to FIU in November was just the second on Homecoming under Blakeney. It also signaled a potential changing of the guard in the league, as the Trojans were no longer in control of their championship destiny.
But they pulled together and won their final three. They found out they won a share of the league title after landing following a win over FAU in the regular-season finale, thanks to an FIU loss to Middle Tennessee. Still, Blakeney thought plenty about his future after the Trojans had dropped three of four games and looked like they may not win another title.
"Winning is definitely the reason your motor runs," Blakeney said. "You take a bunch of them on the chin and that motor revs way down. We got some things turned around personnel wise, then we won three in a row basically going away and it just made the world a lot brighter and more fun. Losing ‘em -- it really puts a drab on everything."
There has not been much that has been drab about Troy under Blakeney. What is particularly interesting to note is despite all those wins, there has been little interest from outside schools in hiring him to run their programs. That has not really surprised Blakeney, and he has been more than happy to stay at a school that has meant so much to him.
As for what has allowed him to be so successful, Blakeney said simply: "Continuity and quality. I’ve been able to hire good quality here without a lot of money. A lot of those guys have ascended out of here to better jobs, bigger jobs, more money. Winning always gives you a chance to maybe hire a guy for less money because of the experience they might get. Everybody likes to win and that’s what drives me."
Even today, as he enters his 21st season as Troy head coach.
"I’m getting older, but I still like doing it, and as long as it’s like that, I’ll probably hang on," he said.