I just want people to know that even though things may sometimes seem hard, there are brighter days to come. Put your trust in God and He will take care of the rest. -- Troy Albea
From THE LINCOLN JOURNAL -- Former Red Devil Troy Albea got just what he wanted for Christmas -- a contract to play professional football with the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Just a few days before Christmas, Albea signed a two-year contract with the British Columbia Lions who are based in Surrey, British Columbia.
CFL teams play a 20-game schedule, with the top two teams competing for the national title in the Grey Cup, a game that airs on ESPN each year. The rules are the same as in the NFL except the field is five yards wider and 10 yards longer which will work to Albea's advantage because of his "run after catch" ability.
"I am very excited about this contract because I have a lot of friends who play in the league; plus, I get to experience a different part of the world," said Albea.
In addition, he will be in a prime position to make the jump back to the NFL if the opportunity presents itself.
Albea's story is one of hard work, faith, success, and disappointment. Although he was named Outstanding Receiver as both a junior and a senior at LCHS, he did not have the senior year he had hoped for. "There were a lot of disappointments in my performance on the field, and people began to start doubting my athletic ability. I knew then that I would have to step it up if I wanted to reach my goal of playing professional football."
What was not readily apparent at the time was that some things were going on in Albea's personal life that was affecting him on the field. "I asked God to lead and guide me in the right way and here I am today," he said.
As for gearing up his training a notch or two, Albea worked extremely hard during his two years at Georgia Military College in Milledgeville and was named the team's Most Valuable Offensive Player for the 1998 season.
He then transferred to Division I-AA Appalachian State University (ASU) in Boone, North Carolina, where he scored nine touchdowns and amassed a total of 1,067 all-purpose yards his "rookie" season. The team was ranked number four in the nation and tied with Georgia Southern University for the Southern Conference Championship.
Albea's senior year, ASU made it to the semifinals but lost to the University of Montana. Even so, the wide receiver had a great year -- he was credited with 65 catches averaging 16 yards a catch, 931 yards receiving and 10 receiving touchdowns, and 22 carries with 230 yards rushing. The former Red Devil still ranks second in receptions in the history of ASU football.
Moreover, Albea was named the NCAA Division I-AA National Player of the Week for his game against the University of Montana in the semifinals and the ASU Offensive Player of the Week for his game against Georgia Southern. He was also selected by the coaches as a member of the All-Southern Conference First Team. It is no wonder that the gifted player was named ASU's MVP for 2000.
There is no doubt that Albea made good on his high school promise to gear things up a notch or two. As a high school senior, he weighed 165 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds. As a senior at ASU, he weighed in at 220 pounds and could run the 40 in 4.4 seconds. "I was determined and the hard work paid off," he said.
In the spring of his senior year at ASU, Albea signed a two-year contract to play for the Indianapolis Colts, the home of such NFL greats as Peyton Manning, Edgerin james, and Marvin Harrison.
He also had offers from the San Francisco 48ers, the New York Giants, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Miami Dolphins, and the New Orleans Saints. "I chose the Costs because I had a great opportunity to make the team as a kickoff returner. And, they offered me more money," he said.
After invading the Colts' starting lineup on special teams, Albea sustained an injury that would make the 2001 and 2002 seasons one long uphill battle. A hit from a Tennessee Titan safety resulted in a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) in his left knee. Following a combined total of 20 hours of surgery and months of rehab, he was still experiencing discomfort in his leg.
"I have six pins in my leg which I think contributed to most of my discomfort. I thought I was as tough as sandpaper and that nothing could phase me until I felt the pain in my leg -- it was excruciating."
In early 2003, Albea was told that his condition was degenerative and that his leg would never get any better. "This mean that the doctor's diagnosis and the Colts' future plans for me were no longer compatible," he said. "Although the doctor wanted to wait until October before making a decision, the Colts didn't want to wait so they decided not to renew my contract."
Had Albea's leg healed in time, his third season in Indianapolis would have been his "money year."
"I am grateful for this opportunity to play with the BC Lions," said Albea. "I don't look at this as a second chance but as a new beginning. I still have NFL teams interested in me -- my plan is to go to Canada and win their confidence back."
Since the CFL is a co-partner with the NFL, Albea will be released from his contract with the BC Lions if he is afforded an opportunity to play for an NFL team.
He went on to say that if things do not work out with the CFL or the NFL, he plans to explore other options such as coaching, building his own business, or possibly even starting a charitable foundation for children. "But right now my focus is on football. I'm going to give it everything I have and see what happens," he said.
In other comments, Albea said he is very concerned about his left knee. "I still have pain, and I still have swelling -- I will just have to work through it.
"I know I'm risking a long-term injury, but I have such passion for the game that I can't quit now," he said.
Although Albea has put in many long hours to get to this point in his career, he is very much aware that he did not do it alone. He expressed his appreciation to God, his parents, his coaches, and "everybody who believed in me" for their guidance and support.
Albea is scheduled to report to the BC Lions mini-training camp in Orlando, Florida, on January 24. he will then move to Canada in May.
Due to the cold temperatures in Canada, the CFL's season is scheduled to begin in June. In addition to the BC Lions, other teams in the CFL include the Calgary Stampeders, the Edmonton Eskimos, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Saskatchewan Rough Riders, the Toronto Argonauts, the Montreal Allouettes, the Ottawa Renegadrs, and the Hamilton TIger Cats.