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Quinton Flowers and Auggie Sanchez: two believers who changed USF football

USF quarterback Quinton Flowers and linebacker Auggie Sanchez will appreciate the journey on senior night.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
South Florida Bulls linebacker Auggie Sanchez (43) reacts to making a defensive stop in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday, September 2, 2017.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times South Florida Bulls linebacker Auggie Sanchez (43) reacts to making a defensive stop in the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Saturday, September 2, 2017.
Published Nov. 16, 2017

It's senior night.  USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, the school's all-time touchdown maker, and USF linebacker Auggie Sanchez, soon to be the school's all-time tackler – two of the best players in program history – might be playing their final home game against Tulsa.

Flowers and Sanchez hope that isn't the case. They aim to beat Tulsa, then topple undefeated and 15th-ranked UCF in Orlando in the I-4 showdown, then maybe host the American Athletic Conference championship game on Dec. 2.

USF's perfect season is gone, but everything is still out there for Bulls coach Charlie Strong and his seniors, that first conference title and with it a trip to a New Year's Six bowl.

"Going to get that championship is something that's never been done here," Flowers said.

"We are in the driver's seat," Sanchez said. "This year, we control our own destiny. If we lose, that's on us."

Tonight is a good night to remember how far these two have come. USF's seniors have won 31 games over the last four seasons. USF went 11-2 last season, is 8-1 this season has won 23 of its last 27 games, under Willie Taggart and Strong.

When colleges looked at Quinton Flowers, the Miami Jackson High senior kept hearing about how he needed to play another position, not quarterback. He was 6 feet tall and he knew he'd be surrounded by bigger kids when he hit campus.

"But I believed in myself," Flowers said.

And USF believed in him

Flowers is responsible for school-record 100 touchdowns in his career. He has run for 31 touchdowns and thrown for 61. He is the all-time leader in the state of Florida in college quarterback rushing – ahead of Tim Tebow.

When he takes the field tonight, there will be family waiting. But it won't include his mother and father. Flowers was 7 when his father, Nathaniel, was killed by a stray bullet in the front yard of the Flowers home. Before Flower's high school senior season, his mother, Nolita, died of cancer.. In 2014, a few days before Flower's first UF start, his brother, Bradley, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Bradley had simply asked a driver to slow down because children were playing nearby.

There has been tragedy.

There has been perseverance.

The journey of Q.

There will still be family waiting for him tonight, including Amayah, his 1-year-old daughter.

"To have her there will be special," Flowers said.

Auggie Sanchez's family will be at tonight's game.

"I'm sure my mom, my sister will be crying," he said.

Sanchez always believed he was a college linebacker. He is just four tackles from breaking USF's career record of 367 tackles, held by Kawika Mitchell.

It was still a journey.

Sanchez arrived at USF from Northeast High, where he made 298 tackles and 39 sacks. He hadn't drawn a lot of interest from Division-I schools. And USF didn't initially want him at linebacker.

"Coming out of high school, I wanted the bigger offer," Sanchez said. "I probably had around a dozen (offers), but that's counting I-AA. Coach (Taggart), I came on an official visit … and he said, 'We want you to play fullback.' I didn't want to play fullback. I didn't want to come to college to play offense. I was a defensive player in high school. It was Toledo or USF. I didn't want to go to Toledo. So, I kind of swallowed the pill and came here to play fullback."

And so, in 2013, he was a fullback in his redshirt freshman season. USF went 2-10, including a stunning season-opening drubbing at the hands of McNeese State to begin the Willie Taggart era.

"That spring, I was pretty miserable," Sanchez said. "I thought about transferring, I didn't even want to be here. I went to Coach T. Coach T believed in me. I believed in myself."

Sanchez was moved to linebacker.

"Once I got that chance, I kind of took off from there. Now I'm here. … When I started, I said I wanted that (career tackles) record. I worked toward it. And now I'm here."

"I was just one of the guys who wanted to come in here and be different," Flowers said.

It's senior night.

"I think it feels more special because of the growth of this program," Sanchez said. "These are the guys who were at the forefront, the core group of guys who kind of built this thing."

Here's to Quinton Flowers and Auggie Sanchez, two believers who helped chart the course.