Six former USF football players are deceased. Two of those players wore #52 and #53. We'll tell their stories today, along with the stories of the other USF football alumni who left us much too early.
#53 Elkino Watson (1992-2015)
A four-star recruit out of high school, Elkino Watson was an immediate contributor for the Bulls, appearing in 11 games at defensive tackle as a true freshman. He became a starter in 2013, and would appear in 45 games over his four-year career. He was popular with his USF teammates, was close to completing his degree, and had gone to training camp with the Chicago Bears.
Watson was fatally stabbed in an Ybor City parking lot, after a fight. He had been attending a post-game celebration after USF's season-opening win over Florida A&M. Watson's friend Desmond Horne, a USF student who had tried out for the football team, was also stabbed.
Randolph Graham was arrested in connection with the crime. He was charged with second-degree murder, and attempted second-degree murder. Graham claimed he was acting in self-defense, and pleaded not guilty. The case is still ongoing.
#52 Mike Minus (1981-2008)
In the very early days of USF football, Mike Minus was a recruiting "get." Despite interest from I-A schools, he signed with USF, out of Miami's American High School as part of the 1999 recruiting class. Other players in that class included Maurice Jones, Greg Walls, Lee Roy Selmon Jr., Ron Hemingway, and quarterback Doug Waechter, who opted for a pro baseball career instead.
Minus redshirted his freshman year, and backed up Kawika Mitchell and Maurice Jones - two of USF's best linebackers ever - in 2000 and 2001. Minus earned accolades for his strength, versatility, and work ethic, but his football career was hampered by knee injuries. Minus did not play at all in 2002, and did not return for the 2003 season.
Mike Minus was killed in 2008 when the semi trailer he was driving overturned near Weston, Florida.
Other former USF football players who are deceased, in alphabetical order:
#84 Will Bleakley (1983-2009)
Originally a walk-on, Bleakley eventually earned a scholarship, and became a starter at tight end. He appeared in 34 games over the 2004-2006 seasons. He had 10 career receptions for 113 yards.
Bleakley was lost in the boating accident that also took the lives of NFL players Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper. The four men were on a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat capsized in rough waters. Another former USF football player, Nick Schuyler, survived.
#12 Javan Camon (1981-2007)
A reserve most of his career, Camon was tasked with replacing all-time great J.R. Reed for the 2004 season, and delivered 101 tackles from the safety position. He was also chosen team captain by his teammates. He won USF's Outstanding Special Teams Player award in 2003.
Camon died from injuries sustained during an indoor football game.
Descriptions of the incident varied. Some news reports described it as a block, others a tackle, others a helmet-to-helmet hit. The Daytona Beach police spokesman called it a "severe, head-on ... one-on-one hit." Camon went into cardiac arrest, and died en route to the hospital. The official cause of death was a broken neck, and the death was ruled an accident.
Camon had had a brush with severe injury before. Playing for USF in 2004, Camon was involved in a play that left Tennessee Tech wide receiver Drew Hixon in a coma. Hixon eventually recovered, and earned a master's degree from TTU, but still suffers effects of the incident. Eerily, Camon had said of the incident "I didn't want to be as aggressive, because now I knew how many bad things could happen from a good hit."
#10 Keeley Dorsey (1987-2007)
Dorsey was a running back who appeared in eight games for USF. He rushed for 66 yards on 10 carries, including a long touchdown run on the last play of the game against McNeese State in 2006.
Dorsey collapsed during a routine workout at USF in January 2007, and died shortly after.
Dorsey's cause of death proved elusive. No trace of injury, illness, toxicology, or genetic condition could be found. In the end, it was described as "sudden cardiac death of undetermined etiology." Medical examiner Laura Hair hypothesized that Dorsey had Long QT syndrome, a rare condition that can cause sudden cardiac arrest in healthy people. Testing that would have confirmed this could not be done, due to insufficient tissue samples.
As a tribute, USF players took turns wearing his #10 jersey in 2009, which would have been Dorsey's senior season. The players who did so were:
Aaron Harris (Wofford)
Delbert Alvarado (at Western Kentucky)
Colby Erskin (Charleston Southern)
Chris Robinson (at Florida State)
Ben Busbee (at Syracuse)
Jerome Murphy (Cincinnati)
Moise Plancher (at Pittsburgh)
Nate Allen (West Virginia)
Kion Wilson (at Rutgers)
Matt Grothe (Louisville)
George Selvie (Miami)
Jessie Hester (at UConn)
#29 Patrick Payton (1982-2001)
Payton was a defensive back who redshirted his only season at USF. He never appeared in a game, though he did score a 92-yard return touchdown in a 2001 spring scrimmage.
He died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.
Payton made a strong impact on head coach Jim Leavitt, who spoke of him often in later years. "Patrick was awfully different from other people. He had a spirit about him. He had a way about him, a smile. He was caring, always listened."
To the best of our knowledge, all other former USF football players are still alive. If there's anyone we missed, please let us know in the comments.