Junior college transfer receiver Kaylon Geiger, who caught 77 passes for 873 yards for Troy, was named the Sun Belt Conference’s Newcomer of the Year on Wednesday.
Geiger, a 5-10, 170-pounder from Fort Worth, Texas, was one of 15 Trojan players recognized on the Sun Belt’s all-conference teams.
He joined quarterback Kaleb Barker, linebacker Carlton Martial and cornerback Will Sunderland on the first team.
The four first team picks tied Arkansas State for the second most in the league, behind Appalachian State’s six first-teamers.
Geiger, who transferred to Troy from Navarro College, is Troy’s first Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year winner since Omar Haugabook, Chris Bradwell and Levi Brown took the honors in consecutive years from 2006-08.
As impressive as Geiger’s numbers were — he was second in the Sun Belt in receptions and receiving yards behind Offensive Player of the Year Omar Bayless of Arkansas State — his attitude and work ethic may have been even better.
Asked during the season what he considers his best attribute, Geiger thought a moment.
“Honestly, I’d probably say just the ‘want to,’” he said. “It has nothing to do with speed, strength, none of that. It’s just the ‘want to.’ The want to win, the passion for the game.”
Geiger didn’t celebrate his production through a disappointing 5-7 season.
“Absolutely, it’s very tough to take,” he said during a stretch when Troy lost four of five games. “There’s not anybody on the team who is OK with a loss. We have to focus and bounce back, move to the next game. That has to be our mindset.”
Offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh said Geiger is his own toughest critic.
“He is going to run everything full speed and he is going to figure out a way to make plays when the ball is in the air,” Pugh said. “He’s hard on himself and that’s why he is a special player.”
Five of Troy’s 15 All-Sun Belt selections were seniors.
Barker, a senior, led the Sun Belt with 30 touchdown passes (which led the league by seven), 460 completions (71 more than second) and with 3,628 passing yards (which led by 689 yards). He set Troy single-game records with 504 passing yards against Southern Mississippi and six touchdown passes against Texas State. He had six 300-yard passing games, which ranked fourth most in the country.
Martial, a Freshman All-American, was even better as a sophomore this season. The Mobile native led the league in tackles (126), tackles per game (10.5), tackles for loss (18.5) and forced fumbles (3). He also intercepted three passes, recorded four sacks and was named a second team All-American by Pro Football Focus.
Martial is the only player to rank in the top eight nationally in both tackles and tackles for loss.
Sunderland, another senior who recently accepted an invitation to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, intercepted four passes this season. He had two picks against South Alabama and returned one of those for a touchdown.
Pro Football Focus rated Sunderland as Troy’s top coverage player in the secondary and opponents were successful on just 68.3 percent of targets against him. Pro Football Focus also placed Sunderland as the ninth best overall cornerback and the 14th best cover cornerback among players in Group of Five conferences.
Senior offensive lineman J.L. Gaston and sophomore defensive tackle Will Choloh represented Troy on the second team.
Offensive lineman Kirk Kelley, Reggie Todd as both a receiver and return specialist, defensive end Marcus Webb and punter Tyler Sumpter were named to the All-Sun Belt Third Team.
Troy’s honorable mention selections were offensive lineman Dylan Bradshaw of Enterprise, receiver Khalil McClain, safety Dell Pettus and offensive lineman Austin Stidham.