East Lansing – Forgive AJ Troup if it took him a while to understand what he had just accomplished.
The junior receiver was playing in his first game for the Spartans and had just grabbed his first reception. And for good measure, it was an acrobatic grab over a Jacksonville State defender in the corner of the end zone for a first-quarter touchdown.
“It happened so fast,” Troup said. “Honestly, I don’t think I really processed it that I scored right away. Everyone was congratulating me, obviously. It just happened so fast and it really hasn’t hit me yet.
“That’s how I dreamed it would be, but to be honest I didn’t know if I was going to have a catch tonight or not. It was very special how it unfolded though. To have my first catch be a touchdown definitely shows that all my hard work and rehabbing paid off.”
Troup was recounting the play less than an hour after the game had ended. But just the fact that Troup, a walk-on, was playing in the game was impressive enough.
He suffered a torn ACL in his final season at Wayzata High School in Plymouth, Minnesota. While rehabbing the injury, he tore it again and spent 2011 — his redshirt season at Michigan State — rehabbing once again.
After not seeing any action in 2012, he enjoyed an outstanding spring before injuring the knee again just before preseason camp in 2013. It appeared he was never going to get that shot.
But he returned last spring and slowly worked his way back before enjoying an outstanding preseason camp this year and found himself No. 2 on the depth chart behind Tony Lippett.
“Being injured just makes you appreciate everything that much more,” Troup said. “I appreciate the grind. I already came in with a chip on my shoulder being a walk-on and dealing with injuries. It’s a long season but right now it’s great to be able to help my team win.”
While Troup, who had three catches for 38 yards, didn’t take time to let the moment of his touchdown sink in, his coaches and teammates did.
“Awesome,” is how offensive coordinator Dave Warner described his reaction. “He’s a guy that’s had numerous knee surgeries. He walked on here and 14 months ago at this time, he was in a position to help us offensively then he got hurt in the summer and had to go through rehab all over again. He had a good summer once again. He’s been in our top two-deep since the summer. We knew what he could do last year before he got hurt and he had a very good camp. We’re just happy for him and want him to continue to grow as a receiver and we think he can help us down the road.”
And Lippett, the fifth-year senior that Troup is playing behind, was beaming as much about Troup’s performance as his own 167-yard, two-touchdown game.
“I was proud of Troup,” Lippett said. “He has been one of the ones grinding since he got injured last year. He’s been grinding all year to get it back. His first catch was a touchdown. I was surprised he didn’t have any tears in his eyes. He has come a long way since his ACL injury. A lot of people wouldn’t have thought he’d overcome that obstacle. In his mind, he knew he’d overcome it.”
Overcome it he did, and now he’ll be happy to keep moving forward, the injuries firmly in his past.
“It was just a great feeling,” he said. “So many emotions running through my head when I was out there. I was relieved and happy to be able to contribute to this team.”