Tiger QB in Hall for his past, present (great story)

[url=http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070415/A_SPORTS0202/704150307]http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ ... /704150307[/url]

When he was a record-setting quarterback at Pacific, the answering machine on Troy Kopp's telephone greeted callers with Joe Walsh belting out, "Just leave a message, maybe I'll call."

Fifteen years later, Kopp is still singing the same tune.

"Life's been good," he said from his home in Palencia.

It's an awfully optimistic outlook from someone whose life has been fractured - both literally and figuratively - often enough to be worthy of a made-for-TV movie.

In fact, when he was a sophomore in college and tales of his homelessness as a teenager became public, five producers called looking to secure movie deals.

He passed.

It would have cost him his college football eligibility, and at that time, his ability to pass, to put up out-of-reach numbers, was his salvation, the one sure thing in his life.

Having been a quarterback is still very much with him, but when Kopp returns to Pacific on Saturday to be inducted - with teammate Aaron Turner, among others - into the school's Athletic Hall of Fame, it's as a decidedly different person.

"I'm more mellow, more at peace," Kopp said.

He credits his humbling setbacks as a player, the eventual end of his playing days, and a near-fatal car accident with making him the well-adjusted 35-year-old who has found joy in coaching football and baseball at San Clemente High School.

"There are challenges for everybody," Kopp said. "I feel fortunate to have gone through what I've gone through. It taught me a lot about adversity and success. I had both sides."

Kopp rewrote the record book at Pacific from 1989-93,his strong arm and quick release ideally suited for the no-huddle, one-back, four receiver set of coach Walt Harris' run-and-shoot offense.

From starting nine games as a true freshman to setting never-to-be broken single-season Pacific records as a junior for pass attempts (449), completions (271), completion percentage (61.2), passing yards (3,767), touchdown passes (37) and total offensive yards (3,686), Kopp was in a class of his own.

Pacific pushed him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

In the midst of the glory, though, came the story of his family being homeless, of his having to sleep in parks, with teammates or in parked cars while in high school.

He endured injuries, spraining his non-throwing left shoulder in a loss to Tennessee during his sophomore year, costing him two games and frustrating him so much he threatened to quit.

As a senior he sprained his ankle on the eve of the team's fifth game while playing wallyball, a hybrid of volleyball and handball, and missed three games.

"That was ridiculous," Kopp said. "I look stupid for doing that. I went in with good intentions, to loosen up my legs before the game. I never thought of an injury. It didn't look good for my character."

He admits to having been stubborn and immature, and wishes he'd been more respectful of others while at Pacific, but Kopp wasn't a bad person.

He was reserved, put up walls, he admits, but he was a teenager trying to find solid footing.

"He was a guy with great athletic ability who frustrated Walt Harris," said Jeff Hood, who covered Pacific football for The Record.

Kopp agrees.

"I wasn't the easiest guy to deal with," Kopp said. "I appreciate his patience. I could have been someone coaches don't want to put up with."

Any coach would have put up with Kopp's occasional temper because of what he did on the field.

"He was the man," said Turner, his primary receiver and appropriate fellow Hall of Fame inductee. "I just caught the passes."

Kopp, despite holding 115 Pacific football records, holds a different view.

"I was fortunate to be there when Walt Harris was there. I was successful because the receivers I had were good and they were open because Coach Harris put them in position to be open. You have to have a good offensive line to throw the ball. I was fortunate."

His good fortune didn't last.

His dreams of ending up in the NFL after his college days never materialized.

He coached a high school team and played in the Arena League before going to the Canadian Football League, where he found success. And failure.

He rallied his team to victory in his first game with Winnipeg, but threw five interceptions in his penultimate game in the CFL, playing for Calgary against Edmonton in the Battle for Alberta.

"The people wanted to boot me out of Calgary," he remembered.
Released by Calgary, he was pondering his future when he suffered his near-fatal car accident on a trip to Vancouver.

"It was a long trip, a 10-hour drive and I got impatient on a small mountain highway," Kopp said. "I tried to pass a truck. It wasn't a smart move. I ended up swerving into another truck coming the other way."

His Mazda Protégé was totaled, crushed between the two semis. Crushed too, were his ribs, which punctured one of his lungs. He also broke bones in his back.

Calgary doctors wondered if he'd live. Or walk. They envisioned a six-week stay.

Kopp left the hospital 12 days after the crash left him in critical condition.

"It was another real blessing to get through," Kopp said, "another time in my life that showed me there's a Jesus. My faith in Jesus was restored. It always is there, but it was one of those miracle situations."

His life seems to have been filled with tests of his character, his physical stamina and his faith.

"I kind of feel proud in a way, to have gone through all of this, to be wherever God's leading me today," Kopp said. "I feel like we all have a purpose and maybe my purpose was to learn as much as I could about sports and give back."

They don't put too many folks into the Hall of Fame for coming to that kind of understanding about the path their lives have taken. The person Kopp has become, though, is as important as the quarterback he was.

"The walls have been knocked down," Kopp said of his life now. "Character-wise, I'm living my life doing the right things. I feel good."

Wow, what a story! Congrats to him for finding his way in life, and being inducted into the university's HOF.

Life really is like a box of chocolate's! :lol: