TAMPA ― In the immediate wake of the most disheartening experience of his athletic life, Bulls walk-on kicker Spencer Shrader, naturally, was the subject of social media disparaging.
But the harsh comments on Twitter were offset by the humanity on his team.
The Bulls ― players and coaches ― have rallied around the Newsome High alumnus since his four missed field goals (three of them 43 yards or longer) in Saturday’s 20-17 loss to No. 17 Cincinnati.
The final miss, a 33-yarder that hit the right upright with 2:07 to play, was followed by the Bearcats’ winning field goal as time expired.
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“You look at a young man like that, and here he is, he gives everything he’s got and you just hate to see that happen,” coach Charlie Strong said Monday. “I’d rather for it to happen to myself than it to ever happen to one of my players, because I care so much about my players.”
Deemed USF’s “long-range” kicker by Strong coming out of preseason camp, Shrader has handled all the kicking chores the past month as fellow walk-on Coby Weiss works his way back from an unspecified injury.
He was 3-for-4 on field goals and had converted all 10 of his PATs entering Saturday’s game, but hadn’t even tried a field goal longer than 34 yards. In USF’s 48-22 win at UConn, he ran for a 22-yard touchdown on a fake field goal.
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“It’s unfortunate what we were going through (Saturday night),” senior tight end Mitch Wilcox said after the loss, "but he’s a great kicker and he’s got a great career ahead of him.”
Wilcox was among those embracing Shrader in the locker room Saturday. Senior defensive end Kirk Livingstone acknowledged he and classmate Marcus Norman briefly prayed with him.
“I’ve never been in that spot, but I could tell that’s a tough, tough spot to be in,” Livingstone said. “After we broke it up and we were about to shower, guys were just going, arms around him, just to hug him, just to talk to him to keep his head up.”
A 2018 Newsome graduate, Shrader spent most of last year competing with an under-20 soccer club in Brazil and documenting the experience. His sister, Sophie, plays for USF’s women’s soccer team that has reached the NCAA Tournament’s second round.
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“He handles himself the right way,” Strong said. “Still young … still growing up, and you just hated to see that happen for him because he does everything we ask of him.”