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Body of former USF safety Jon Lejiste found on Florida’s east coast

The hard-hitting defensive back was instrumental in the Bulls’ 2009 win at Florida State.
 
Former USF safety Jon Lejiste participated in the Bucs' rookie minicamp in 2013, months after his Bulls career ended. His body was found late last week in the Intracoastal Waterway on Florida's east coast.
Former USF safety Jon Lejiste participated in the Bucs' rookie minicamp in 2013, months after his Bulls career ended. His body was found late last week in the Intracoastal Waterway on Florida's east coast. [ WALLACE, DANIEL | Times files ]
Published June 2, 2023

Shock and grief remained palpable Friday among former USF coaches and players over the death of former Bulls safety Jon Lejiste, responsible for one of the most memorable defensive plays in program lore.

The body of Lejiste, found in the Intracoastal Waterway near Lake Worth on May 26, was positively identified late Tuesday night, according to the West Palm Beach Police Department.

Lejiste, 33, had a small scar on his left wrist and a tattoo of the number seven on his right arm. He was found wearing a black windbreaker jacket, black shirt and black pants. He also was wearing black and gray camouflage sneakers and a dog tag-style chain with the word “Faith” engraved.

Two keys on a ring were found in his pocket, but he had no identification.

Former USF safety Jon Lejiste (8) intercepts a pass in a 2010 game against Connecticut.
Former USF safety Jon Lejiste (8) intercepts a pass in a 2010 game against Connecticut. [ ALLEN, WILLIE J. JR | Times files ]

The medical examiner conducted an autopsy May 26 and determined the death is not suspicious, West Palm Beach police said.

“Jon was a great young man,” former Bulls coach Jim Leavitt said via text message Friday morning.

“He was quiet and so courteous, was one of the great safeties I had on that team with Nate Allen. So, so talented, but what I loved about him was he was respectful and courteous.”

Raised in Delray Beach, Lejiste spent five seasons (2008-2012) in USF’s program during the Leavitt and Skip Holtz tenures. He started 30 games, totaling 137 tackles, five sacks and three interceptions.

Of Lejiste’s four career forced fumbles, none were more significant than his vicious shot on FSU tailback Tavares Pressley late in the first quarter of the Bulls’ 17-7 triumph against the Seminoles in 2009. The Bulls didn’t score on the turnover, but the play clearly set the tone for the surreal afternoon in Tallahassee.

The victory was USF’s first against one of the state’s “Big Three” schools (Florida, Miami, FSU).

“He was a hell of a football player and a hard hitter, and one of the nicest people I ever got a chance to meet,” former Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe said. “He was just always in a good mood and would do anything for anybody.”

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