TAMPA — When George Selvie came to USF in 2005, the Bulls had never been to a bowl game.
Now, as the senior defensive end prepares for the Bulls' fifth bowl in his five years, he wants to go out the way USF fans will best remember him, as a dominant player who was a consensus All-American in 2007.
"(I want) to win, but to go out and make some plays (also). 'Oh, that's the George Selvie we remember,' " the 22-year-old said last week. "That's what I want to be like. 'That's the guy we always knew he would be.' I want to go out with a great game."
By his standards, Selvie has had a quiet year, with career lows in sacks (3.5), tackles for loss (9.5) and total tackles (40). Two years ago he was the Big East defensive player of the year, and a year ago he considered leaving early for the NFL draft. He stayed for his senior year, and USF coaches say he has been a leader and a model for younger players.
"George has done a great job," coach Jim Leavitt said. "For a guy to work like he's done and do what he's done, that's pretty impressive. He's really been an inspiration to a lot of players and to coaches. He's a real special guy."
As Selvie prepares to leave with his teammates Monday for a trip to Toronto to meet Northern Illinois in Saturday's International Bowl, he can appreciate all he has accomplished.
The 2006 Papajohns.com Bowl — after he scored what is his only career touchdown to date, in a road upset of West Virginia — was a strong showing for the redshirt freshman, with a team-best eight tackles, including 2.5 for losses, in a win against East Carolina.
That game was a springboard to his sophomore year, when he led the nation with 31.5 tackles for loss and set USF's season record for sacks with 14.5. By the second half of that season, opposing offenses were game-planning for Selvie, double-teaming him and running away from his side of the field.
His next two bowls, like his past two seasons, have been underwhelming, with not nearly the gaudy statistics he put up in 2007. In a loss to Oregon in the 2007 Sun Bowl, Selvie had one assisted tackle; in last year's win over Memphis in the St. Petersburg Bowl, he was limited to one tackle for a loss.
For his last bowl game, Selvie is excited about the chance to spend six days in Toronto. He said playing his last game probably won't be as tough as was saying goodbye to fans in playing his final home game, against Miami last month.
Selvie concedes that his statistics haven't been as good this season, but he doesn't regret the decision to return.
"We always want to win a Big East championship, so we didn't get that," Selvie said. "I felt like I had a really good season. Not as much tackles for loss or sacks or anything, but I felt like I contributed to my team. I tried my best, and that's all you can do."
Selvie's story is still impressive. He was a center in high school, USF was his only Division I-A offer, and now he is a two-time All-American preparing to try for a career in the NFL.
"Whoever thought I would do that? I didn't think I'd do that," he said. "I felt like I was blessed, just being able to do all this stuff, coming from where I came from. USF in the top 25? (Being ranked) No. 2 one year (2007)? It was a crazy five years for me, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Just the experiences with my teammates, growing and making lifelong friends. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
After Saturday, he'll prepare for next month's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., then train for the NFL draft combine, trying to improve his stock.
"It's the next step in my life," he said. "You just train hard and see where it leads to. The teams, they're going to knock you down, they're going to look for everything wrong so they don't have to pick you.
"I'm looking to prove everybody wrong again. That's just like it was going into college."
Leavitt said he thinks NFL scouts will see the same qualities in the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder that he did.
"I would imagine he'll get drafted pretty high," Leavitt said. "He's that good of a player. … I know I'd draft him high if I was somebody."