TAMPA — After last season ended for the USF football team, quarterback Matt Floyd added a tattoo on his left forearm, symbolic of both his strong faith and the challenge he faces this fall.
"CHASE LIONS," it reads in bold letters, then the Bible chapter and verse — 2nd Samuel 23:20-21 — detailing the story of Benaiah, whose exploits serve as daily inspiration for the sophomore, one of four passers competing to start in a close, wide-open race.
"Who chases a lion into a pit, and on a snowy day? It's crazy the things that Benaiah did, and the bravery he had helped him become King David's main bodyguard," said Floyd, active in USF's chapter of Athletes in Action. "The steps he took and his faith in God in the situations he was in led him to the ultimate goal he wanted to get. For me, it's just to do the same."
As the Bulls open fall camp this morning, another returning quarterback, senior Bobby Eveld out of Jesuit High, is eager to continue the amicable competition he had with Floyd this spring. Penn State transfer Steven Bench and true freshman Mike White are also in the mix now.
Eveld, like other quarterbacks, has been active in leading voluntary summer workouts with other players, working to get everyone on the same page and familiar with the offense.
"My first goal is to be the best teammate I can be," said Eveld, who has started one game in each of the last three seasons, filling in for the now-graduated B.J. Daniels. "I want to come out and show the guys I'm willing to work for them, and I want a very positive season, not just for me but the whole team."
The quarterback competition before the Aug. 31 opener against McNeese State is close enough that coach Willie Taggart won't say who came out of spring ahead between Eveld and Floyd. Floyd threw for two touchdowns in the spring game but also had lingering issues with fumbled snaps.
"It's close. Both of them bring different things to the game," Taggart said. "We told them it won't be decided until training camp. We're going to give these other guys opportunities to compete. I do think we'll get ourselves the best quarterback for our football team. I want to see someone separate themselves. To me, that's what big-time college football is about. I'm excited."
Floyd's summer included a weeklong Christian "Ultimate Training" camp in Fort Collins, Colo., where he strengthened himself physically, mentally and spiritually at a gathering of college athletes.
"It was a fantastic camp. I learned a lot of tools I didn't know. I thought I was pushing my body to the limit; at that camp I learned I can push even harder," he said. "I also learned things to be more of a leader, to step out more and be more of a spiritual leader, a vocal leader and a leader by example on the team."
Per team policy, Bench and White won't speak to the media before the season starts. Taggart won't allow true freshmen to speak to reporters until after the season, nor transfers until after the first game. But with USF as the only team out of 10 in the American Athletic Conference not returning its starting quarterback, it will be a key position both before and during the season ahead.
"I don't look at the competition as a negative thing, by any means," said Eveld, whose brother Tommy, a redshirt walk-on, is also a Bulls quarterback. "I'm pretty good friends with Matt. … I have a good relationship with all the quarterbacks. … I think our team is very welcoming, which is nice for the newcomers. It should be exciting to see how everything works out."