Despite urging from family members to seek a job outside of pro football, Troymaine Pope continued to hold out hope for an NFL opportunity.
A tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs in May didn’t yield a contract offer. Instead, the former Jacksonville State running back returned home to Anniston, Ala., far from the practice fields of an NFL team. Finally, he gave in and interviewed to work at a car factory.
Then his phone rang. With injuries mounting early in training camp, the Seattle Seahawks needed help at running back. They gave Pope the opportunity he had been holding out hope for.
“They called me and I just like, oh man ... broke down crying like it’s a blessing. It was God’s plan,” Pope said.
Pope has been one of the unexpected stars during Seattle’s first two preseason games. Pope rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries against the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. He also scored the winning two-point conversion against the Chiefs in the Seahawks’ preseason opener.
“I ain’t ever going to get past this game,” Pope said. “This is something I love. My family was trying to convince me to get a job. I took a long time to even attempt for a job because this is what I wanted to do.”
With a 3-year-old daughter, Cassidy, at home, Pope began looking for jobs outside football. He attended an orientation at a factory that works on cars and builds tools.
“It was like hard labor,” he said. “I didn’t really want to work the job, but I had to provide for my daughter so I was willing to do anything for her.”
Pope was on his way to pick up his car from the shop with his mother when the Seahawks called to give him the job offer he wanted.
“I’m not surprised,” coach Pete Carroll said of Pope’s performance against Minnesota. “I really thought we saw some stuff in practice that showed us the special quickness that he has. He’s very elusive. He has a good burst and a good sense.”
Pope’s chances of making Seattle’s roster remain slim. The Seahawks drafted three running backs – C.J. Prosise, Alex Collins and Zac Brooks – to compete with Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael for three, maybe four, spots on the 53-man roster.
Hamstring injuries to Prosise and Brooks led the Seahawks to give Pope a chance. Prosise and Brooks are now returning to full health.
Nevertheless, Pope is no longer just a “camp body.” With two preseason games to go, Pope will have more opportunities to convince Seattle not to let him leave town.
But Pope says he’s not focusing on the last play, or the last game or just how close he came to having to do something else with his life. He’s trying to make the most of every chance.
“I don’t want to look back on it. I just want to continue to strive forward toward my dream. That’s all I’m going to continue to do is work toward my dream,” Pope said.