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Troy coach entertains crowd

Troy University head football coach Larry Blakeney’s speech at the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet touched on two important keys — being a winner at anything you do, and being willing to change.

“Winners deal with change,” he said. “They work hard and they move forward. Losers don’t.”

Blakeney said it’s important to have a winning attitude in anything you do, whether it’s trying to build a community or trying to build a successful football program.

“I’ve always said the sky is the limit for Troy University,” he said. “And the sky is the limit for small towns like Andalusia, too. I know that this area has a lot of hard-working business leaders and community members who are devoted to making this town and county the best they can be.”

Mayor Earl Johnson, a Troy alumnus, introduced Blakeney as the most successful coach in the Trojans’ history. During his 18 years as coach of the Troy football program, Blakeney has amassed a 144-73-1 record, including at least a share of four straight Sun Belt Conference championships.

He also talked about the growth of Troy University as an academic institution, including major building projects and renovations. He noted it’s just as important for a city to continually improve its “infrastructure” to stay competitive.

“Since I’ve been at Troy, our leadership has shown the vision to continue to improve our facilities and infrastructure to keep us competitive,” he said. “The same thing is true for a city. If you want to attract new people, you’ve got to continue to make improvements, and I know you’ve done that with improving sidewalks and moving utilities underground to make the streets more attractive.

“More people will come to your area because of those advancements and improvements.”

Blakeney touched on the fact that Andalusia’s economy was once heavily dependent on the textile industry, particularly at the Alatex plant. He said the area showed its willingness to change by embracing a variety of different industries, including aerospace and technology.

He told the audience that it’s also important to realize that there are sometimes setbacks when instituting change. Blakeney specifically referred to his 2001 season, when he wanted to hire an up-and-coming offensive whiz named Tony Franklin to join his staff.

“I brought Tony to Troy and I talked to him for two days,” he said. “We could not come together on the money he needed, because I didn’t have it and the program didn’t have it. And he had started a business and all that stuff trying to make it; he had some debt. So we couldn’t come together that year, 2001.

“We parted on good terms. I didn’t forget, and he didn’t forget. This guy wrote me a letter after the 2005 season and told me what he thought he could do. I took it to the athletic director and the chancellor and we made the move to bring him in, and it led to four straight Sun Belt titles.”

Blakeney also poked fun at the fact he’ll have to deal with change once again this offseason, after his offensive coordinator Neal Brown was hired to join Texas Tech head coach Tommy Tuberville’s staff earlier this week.

“If (Texas Tech) had offered me the kind of money they offered Neal, I’d have gone there, too,” he joked.