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Veteran USF football players say they feel safer on campus preparing for season

Cornerbacks KJ Sails and Mike Hampton say every Bull in the locker room wants to play this fall.
USF cornerback Mike Hampton (7), right, jogs with teammates to the next station during the Bulls' practice Tuesday on campus.
USF cornerback Mike Hampton (7), right, jogs with teammates to the next station during the Bulls' practice Tuesday on campus. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 11, 2020
Updated Aug. 11, 2020

TAMPA — At a juncture when practically no agreement can be reached on how to approach the 2020 college football season or whether to even have one, at least one consensus exists:

Inside the USF locker room, or so senior cornerback KJ Sails insists. The Bulls’ vocal, veteran leader says he and all of his peers want the season to proceed.

“Definitely,” the East Bay High alumnus said following Tuesday morning’s practice on campus. “We got a great response from all the players, and everybody’s pretty much all in. That’s pretty much the message that I’ve gotten from my teammates, and it’s been pretty positive.”

Hours before the Big Ten and Pac-12 postponed their conference’s 2020 college season, the Bulls engaged in their fourth preseason workout Tuesday minus Jeff Scott.

USF’s first-year coach remained with his wife, Sara, who gave birth to the couple’s second child — a boy named Hunter Bradford Scott — Monday evening. But on Tuesday afternoon, Scott tweeted the entire team was tested for COVID-19 again on Monday, with no positive results.

Earlier Monday, Sails — in collaboration with several other players in the American Athletic Conference — crafted a document for social media indicating he and his peers want to play while calling leaders to take six measures moving forward.

They included helping develop a players association, and developing universal health- and safety-mandated protocols to assist players in the fight against COVID-19. He said his fellow collaborators included Memphis quarterback Brady White and SMU quarterback Shane Buechele.

“We (saw) that (Clemson quarterback) Trevor Lawrence had put out what he put out, and that was great for college football, because us players do need a voice, and we should have a say-so on playing this year,” Sails said.

“So I feel that the American (Athletic Conference), we should take the initiative and have our players speak out.”

Sails and fellow cornerback Mike Hampton — also a 2021 NFL draft hopeful — both balked when asked Tuesday if they would play a spring season, indicating they’d have a decision to make if the season were postponed.

But they were far more assertive regarding the fall season still on tap for now.

“All the locker room, all we talk about is bring home a conference championship,” said Hampton, a Hillsborough High alumnus. “We can’t do that sitting at home.”

“We’re a lot safer here,” Sails added.

“A lot of our players feel like we’re safer here than going home. Our medical staff has done an unbelievable job of keeping us safe, and we’re following the proper protocols. So we feel that we have a plan here to play safely, and I feel that we can get that done.”

Related: Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida State president: We want football this fall