Sumrall steps in to lead Trojan football
After three straight five-win seasons and a heartbreaking season-ending loss, Troy Football began looking for a new beginning.
Enter Jon Sumrall.
Sumrall, not a stranger to Troy, has been here with success before.
Under then-coach Neal Brown, Sumrall was the assistant head coach, linebackers coach, and special teams coordinator from 2015-2017.
During his tenure, the Trojans saw massive achievements, having a cumulative record of 25-13, winning their two bowl game appearances during that time, and becoming the first Sun Belt team to be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
While working with Neal Brown, Troy defeated #25-ranked LSU in Death Valley and suffered a narrow 30-24 loss at #2-ranked Clemson.
The Trojans won a school-record 11 games in 2017, and the Troy defense ranked first in the nation in red zone defense (.614), second in tackles for loss per game (8.6), seventh in rushing defense (105.3), 11th in scoring defense and 24th in total defense per game (336.6).
In his last two years with the Trojans, Troy had a 21-5 total record, including a Sun Belt conference championship.
In Sumrall’s three seasons at Troy, the Trojans’ defense was top in both the Sun Belt and NCAA in multiple defensive categories.
“Jon Sumrall exceeded all the criteria we had when searching for a new leader for our football program,” said Brent Jones, Troy’s althletic director. “He is a proven winner and a dynamic recruiter that will continue to build upon our championship legacy.
“In Jon, we have a leader who is energetic, intense and brings a level of passion that is unmatched.
“He fully understands our championship expectations and has a comprehensive plan to take Troy Football to the top of the Sun Belt Conference and the Group of Five.”
Regardless, Sumrall faces an uphill climb replacing Chip Lindsey, who was let go after three disappointing seasons.
The Trojans went 5-6, 5-7, and 5-6 under Lindsey, the former Auburn offensive coordinator, hired to replace Brown in 2019.
Sumrall, a Huntsville native and former University of Kentucky linebacker letterwinner, was very keen to share his excitement about returning to Troy.
“Troy University and the Troy community left an indelible mark on our family,” Sumrall said. “I am humbled and extremely grateful to (Chancellor) Hawkins, Brent Jones and the entire selection committee for their trust in me to lead this storied football program.
“Ginny and I fell in love with Troy and can’t wait to return home and reconnect with the tremendous fan base.
“Troy Football has a proud tradition of success, and I look forward to leading this program back to a championship level.”
Sumrall also emphasized the importance of connecting with the student body.
“You’re going to see me out at events on campus all the time,” Sumrall stated. “I’m going to be the biggest fan of the other sports.
“We have an appreciation for college life and college people.
“My job as the head coach here is to help us win football games, but my job is also to connect and engage with the community and help other people learn and grow as well.
“I’ll show up at fraternity and sorority houses if they want me to speak.
“I’ll show up to any club on campus; it doesn’t matter. I think every student on this campus matters, and we want them to be involved, and we want them to know we value them being a part of our program.”
Sumrall also hails from Lexington, Kentucky, as a three-year letterwinner linebacker for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
During his reign as co-defensive coordinator and linebacker coach under head coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky saw great defensive prowess in recent years.
In his first season in 2019, Sumrall oversaw an effective four-man rotation at the middle and weakside linebacker positions.
UK’s defense helped keep every opponent at or below 30 points, the first time the Wildcats have done that since 1979.
Sumrall also had two of the nation’s leading tacklers under his watch in 2020 in Jamin Davis and DeAndre Square, with Davis being a first-round pick to Washington in the 2021 NFL Draft.
“I think playing good defense is about good attitude and good effort,” Sumrall said, regarding how his defensive successes in Lexington would translate to Troy.
“You develop that through just what your expectations are and how hard you work. For us, it’s going to be about a mindset, about an approach each and every day to be the best we can be all the time.”
Sumrall also spoke on how he handles pressure, especially with heightened expectations coming off three consecutive five-win seasons.
“I don’t view any of it as pressure,” Sumrall said. “I’m going to put more pressure on myself than any fan or any other outside force can… the results will find themselves if we do things the right way.
“We want to win, we want to win big as fast as we can, but I’m also going to make decisions that are in the best interest of the Troy Football program in the long haul and not for immediate gratification.
“As I get to know the team, I’ll have a better idea of what’s our best recipe for being successful. “As a coach, we have to identify what our guys do well, embrace what they do well, develop what they don’t, and find competitive advantages for us.”
With an entire spring, summer and fall camp to re-familiarize himself with team and facilities, as well as develop a game plan moving forward, Sumrall and the Trojans have room to grow.
Under Sumrall’s direction, there might not be a new face, but there is a new beginning.
“I have no doubt Jon Sumrall is the right man to lead us into a new era of Troy Football,” Jones said.
Troy opens its 2022 season with a road trip to Oxford, Mississippi, to face the Ole Miss Rebels on Sept. 3.