Jon Sumrall is an Alabama A&M football fan.
His mom got a Master's degree at the school in his hometown of Huntsville. He attended some Alabama A&M football games and followed the Bulldog players that played in the NFL. He ran the steps at Lewis Crews Stadium on the Alabama A&M campus as part of his training regimen as a player at Grissom High.
"I got a lot of respect for their program," said Sumrall, who is in his first season as the Troy head coach. "People maybe my age wouldn't realize these things. I'm a football junkie, man. [NFL Hall of Famer and four-time Super Bowl champion] John Stallworth played at Alabama A&M. I've idolized some guys that played at Alabama A&M. [Former NFL Pro Bowl linebacker and Super Bowl champion] Robert Mathis, I watched play. I think that they are a really great and historic program."
A week ago, Sumrall returned to Ole Miss, where he was an assistant. On Saturday, Sumrall welcomes Alabama A&M to Veterans Memorial Stadium, with kickoff slated at 6 p.m.
"It's going to be a fun opportunity, fun experience," Sumrall said.
A week ago, Troy was the underdog at an SEC stadium. This week, Alabama A&M, an FCS team, is the underdog against an FBS team. Sumrall said those things don't matter.
"I don't ever view it that way, to be honest with you," said Sumrall, whose team dropped a 28-10 decision to Ole Miss last Saturday. "I don't get caught up in SEC, G5, FCS. We're all football teams playing a game. College football, man, you get 12 regular season opportunities. If you even think about relaxing or not having a sense of urgency in preparation for a game, then you are out of your mind. To me, we're 0-1. We got to win a game. I don't care who we are playing. I don't care where we're playing. I don't care what league they are or aren't in. They are all the same to me."
What matters most is how quarterback Gunnar Watson and Troy fare against an Alabama A&M defense that never slowed down UAB. And how linebacker Carlton Martial and the Troy defense do against a Bulldogs offense still trying to get underway.
It will be the first game for Sumrall as a head coach at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The Trojans set a school record with more than 11,000 season tickets sold and hope to be near capacity for Saturday's game.
"We've got one of the premier Group of 5 college football environments," Sumrall said. "Our stadium is as good as anybody's out there. Our fan base is outstanding. I'm really excited to see our fans turn out for our players. I want to create an atmosphere that can give our players an advantage on game day. I'll be amped up. I'll be ready to go. More importantly, I'll be focused on making sure we [have the things we] need ... to win the football game and play the game the right way. I'll be excited, man. I'm not going to lie to you. I'll be ready."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.