TROY – Elba’s Ted Horstead is usually with the fans encouraging Troy players as they make their way into Veterans Memorial Stadium on game day.
On Saturday, it was Horstead getting high-fives in the Trojan Walk – though he was still doing plenty of the cheering – several hours before the big game against Southern Mississippi.
“This is fun,” Horstead said. “This is something we didn’t do. I’m used to being up here high-fiving the players when they take the Trojan Walk, but this is my first Trojan Walk (to be in).
“It was exciting. I love it – just love it.”
Horstead was among the players who helped Troy win a Division II national championship in 1984 on a 50-yard field goal by Ted Clem in the final seconds to beat North Dakota State 18-17 in McAllen, Texas.
The championship team was honored on the field Saturday before the second quarter as Troy clashed with Southern Mississippi.
“I was on the field at the time of the field goal,” Horstead said. “We ran the last play and didn’t have any timeouts. The clock was running. We practiced this every day, so 15 seconds, we had plenty of time to get on the field and kick a field goal, and that’s what happened.”
Horstead was the star fullback in the wishbone offense, rushing for 1,123 yards in leading the Trojans to a 12-1 record. At the time, the sophomore was the first player in school history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a season.
“We set the foundation and the people that came behind us, they kept pushing it and building it up,” Horstead said. “This is unbelievable. If you haven’t been here in a while, you wouldn’t recognize it.”
It was likely hard for Horstead to recognize some of his former teammates – many on the campus for the first time in years.
“I just love seeing all of the old guys coming back – some of them we haven’t seen since we left,” Horstead said. “It’s just exciting to get these hugs, and bring back memories, and talk about some of the old days. It’s unbelievable, man.”
Now residing in Birmingham, Horstead has remained close to the program over the years. He attends every home game and sets up a tent in Tailgate Terrace next to the stadium.
Chan Gailey was the coach of the Troy championship team. He later led Georgia Tech and Samford in the college ranks and Dallas and Buffalo in the NFL.
“He was the perfect coach for us at the time,” Horstead said. “He’s a people person and a very Christian person. And he believed in his people. He wasn’t an in-your-face type coach, but he worked you hard, now.”
Unity was the word Horstead used in describing that 1984 team.
“The guys on the team – we believed in each other,” Horstead said. “The coaching staff, coach Gailey, he’s the leader – ‘Do things the right way’ – that was his motto.”
His eyes sparkle when he talks about the love for the university and how the football program has grown.
“Just look at the stadium, the atmosphere – it’s just amazing,” Horstead said.
Horstead said he always visits his mother in Elba before coming over to Troy, a place he feels so very much at home. He wants others to enjoy that same feeling.
“I want people to know that Troy is a place that everybody can come and feel at home,” Horstead said. “That’s what the Trojan Tailgate is all about. Everybody is welcomed to come over and get some food and drinks. Even the visitors are welcomed to come by.
“It’s all about enjoying each other. It’s a rivalry when we get on the field, but at the end of the day, we want everybody to be able to enjoy each other.”
Nobody seemed to be enjoying the day any more than Horstead.