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USF seniors recall highs, lows of improbable college journey

More than 20 USF football seniors will be recognized prior to Thursday night's home game against Tulsa.

Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, more than 20 USF seniors will take one final, tear-inducing trot onto the Raymond James Stadium turf, and into the waiting arms of loved ones.

In a sense, that short jog will represent the final steps of a surreal, sobering, painful, preposterous gamut. Most of these upperclassmen have run the whole thing, from 2-10 to 11-2 to the fringe of a conference title.

They've adjusted to two head coaches, at least a half-dozen offensive coordinators (including co-coordinators), four defensive coordinators and five offensive line coaches. They sulked off the field after McNeese State (2013) and celebrated on it after Temple ('15).

They've transitioned from a power-based scheme to a spread to a hybrid of both. They have experienced life as basement dwellers and Bull Sharks.

Now, at 31 victories and counting, they're four triumphs shy of becoming the winningest four-year group in school history.

"I don't know if I'm gonna cry (Thursday), I don't know what I'm gonna do," senior QB Quinton Flowers said. "But at the end of the day, my goal was to come to this school and give the city of Tampa something to talk about when they go around town."

In observance of these seniors' improbable journey, we asked several to recall both the high and low points of their respective USF careers. Here are some responses.

Low Points
MLB Auggie Sanchez: Redshirt freshman year, 2013 (when he played fullback)
"I was talking to my family quite a bit. I was like, 'I don't think I can do this anymore.' I was just so unhappy. I went up there and went into Coach (Willie Taggart's) office and he said, 'Auggie, what you got for me?' I said, 'Coach I don't really want to play fullback anymore.' And he says, 'Yeah, we've talked about that.' And I said, 'You have?' I was like, surprised, because I thought fullback was it. And he said, 'You're gonna be one of the (baddest) players in the country because you're gonna play fullback and linebacker.'"

RB Darius Tice: Seeing fans with bags over their heads in 2013
"That was the lowest, but you can't blame 'em 'cause we were losing. … And I felt kind of bad just to have a football team and have to put your fans through that, because they'd still come to support but we were losing."

QB Quinton Flowers: 24-17 loss to Memphis in 2015 (dropping USF to 1-3)
"We had the game right there in our hand, and we just let it slip. And from there I said, 'This won't happen again. As long as I'm here I can't let that happen and it won't happen.' And we just took off from there." (Note: USF is 26-5 since that game, all with Flowers as the starting quarterback.)

C Cameron Ruff: Memphis loss, 2015
"We were still trying to find our role, and it was that year that changed the tide of everything. But that Memphis game, I could say it was a high and low because it was also a turning point for us. But that loss really hurt everybody that was in that game, 'cause we knew we were close. We knew at that point, we were good enough, we believed in ourselves. And to be that close and still lose at the very end, it hurt a lot."

DE Mike Love: 2-10 season of 2013
"But we always stayed the course even when (Taggart) told us to just do something, stay the course, it'll change. We all believed in his plan. That's really why I came here, 'cause I believed in the plan, I believed we could change this program around. We did it. It was frustrating at first, but we stayed the process and look at us now."

High Points
DT Bruce Hector: Building long-term relationships with his peers
"It's not only about football with these guys. We all came, we built relationships with each other. And just the relationships I have with all these guys, I think that's the best thing I'll get out of this."

Love: Birmingham Bowl victory, 2016 (Love's sack in overtime ended the game)
"That's why I came (to USF) for, for championships. Got a good ring and that was the best moment."

Tice: Every day in the locker room and at practice
"When I say we really enjoy each moment, we have fun to the fullest. We go out there, we play, but when I say we have fun to the fullest, this is really a hobby for us. We come out, have fun with each other, and we give it all we got."

Sanchez: Memphis loss, 2015
"That was the game that kind of drew the line in the sand. And I think the losing made us who we are, honestly. I think playing with an edge, and people not believing in us and people not wanting anything to do with USF, that kind of made us. And I think this year when we were in the forefront and everyone was saying, 'Hey, USF's so good,' that's not how we built this thing. And I think that loss to Houston really helped us get back to playing with an edge and kind of getting back to where we were when we first got here."

Flowers: The program's turnaround in general
"And just knowing that I was one of them guys that wanted to come in and make a change and be different. Just knowing that you believe in yourself and other people believed too. And y'all put the work in and bring it all together, it's amazing what people can do."

2017 Seniors
(Listed with hometown)
S Devin Abraham, Tarpon Springs
TE Spencer Adkinson, Seminole
WR Temi Alaka, Houston
OL Glen Bethel, Nassau, Bahamas
CB Nick Cuccia, Indian Trail, N.C.
QB Quinton Flowers, Miami
S Tajee Fullwood, Tampa
OL Jeremi Hall, Atlanta
DT Bruce Hector, Tampa
P Jonathan Hernandez, Bradenton
TE Ryan Hintze, Bradenton
RB D'Ernest Johnson, Immokalee
LB Devon Jones-Stewart, Lake Mary
DE Mike Love, Clearwater
TE KJ Miles, Seffner
PK Emilio Nadelman, Miami
DB Deatrick Nichols, Miami
C Cameron Ruff, Tampa
LB Auggie Sanchez, St. Petersburg
DT Deadrin Senat, Immokalee
WR Trevor Steinke, Lutz
RB Darius Tice, Miami
WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, St. Petersburg
*-Senior WR Ryeshene Bronson, taking a redshirt year due to a shoulder injury, won't be recognized Thursday. 

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