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This Is What I’ve Been Waiting For

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This isn’t months of hype, it’s years. Since the day I got my acceptance letter.

Northern Illinois v South Florida Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images

It’s currently 2:30 in the morning, I have my alarm set for 6:00. I doubt I’m going to be able to sleep tonight anyway, because we all know what’s about to happen.

It’s been building for weeks, even months. Ever since the students got on campus this semester, we’ve been waiting for Florida State. Ever since we all spent the weekend in Miami, we’ve been waiting for Florida State. Ever since football beat Temple and USF fans realized “yo, we turned the corner. We’re back. It’s over.” Ever since I jumped down several feet and was unknowingly nearly tackled by a cop (See here. See that kid in the white hat, top corner of the screen, right before the cop falls? Me), we’ve been waiting for Florida State.

But the night is a weird thing for the mind. I doubt many of my friends are getting much sleep either, but I think none are quite as restless as I am.

How long have I actually been waiting for this moment? This isn’t a moment I’ve been waiting for since the start of the season, since the bowl game, or Temple. It’s one I’ve been waiting for since I first got my acceptance letter to USF in 2013.

“Football is going to be great! They hit #2 in the nation that one year! I’m going to go to every game and be in the front row and go absolutely nuts and Raymond James is going to be packed!” I told myself.

I grew up a Northwestern fan. My parents went to Northwestern during the infamous streak (you know, the one where they set the FBS record for the longest losing streak at 34 games?). My dad helped “lake the posts” when they finally won a game (so says Mom).

Instead of flying up to Chicago once a year to watch Northwestern play while surrounded by drunk Michigan students (this is how deep hatred for certain schools begins), I was prepared to see 50,000 people actually supporting the home team. To see a conference contender instead of “WE MADE A 6-6 BOWL GAME!”

Boy, was I let down. No, I didn’t do my homework to find out how badly Skip butchered the program, but there’s no way to prepare for 2-10. The amount of students attending the game today is probably going to equal the entire stadium at the end of the 2013 season.

I knew rebuilding was going to take a few seasons, but that 2014 season...Jesus that was one of the most painful seasons I’ve ever watched (I GREW UP A NORTHWESTERN FAN). There was no hope. There was no reason to go. I kept coming because I’m a sucker, but I was let down every time. The only thing I could think was “Is this how my parents felt?”

2015 was a fresh breath of air. A winning season. A bowl game. One of the biggest mi-season turnarounds in college football history. A BOWL GAME. I had jumped ship and made a nice fool out of myself when climbing back on board, but that hardly mattered. The bowl game had so much hype, I didn’t care that I was calling for Willie’s head not three months prior

At least I thought that was hype. Months later, we’re poised on one of the biggest games in program history. We all know we’re about to witness something that can change the course of the program.

This is what I, and all the seniors at USF, have been waiting for. For years, we’ve been waiting for those glory days of the past to prove themselves to be more than fairy tales. Hell, the only reason I knew USF was #2 at one point was because I grew up in the area. But fans in the 300 levels regularly? “HA. We’re lucky to hit 200!”

I’ve only ever heard of tales of the past. 2007, West Virginia, Ben Moffitt, 67,000 USF fans. Oh how grand things were then. What did I get to watch? Fuck all, that’s what. Way to tell me I was born a decade too late, guys. It’s been almost impossible to believe how popular USF used to be, and the only reason I can believe it is because there is a record of attendance numbers.

But the fairy tales are coming to life tomorrow. The stories will be real and the students will become believers. They’ll have their own story to tell after years of hearing that their era sucks.

Where am I going with all this? I don’t know. Am I a bit salty? Maybe.

Here’s what I do know: it’s 3:45 now. I know I’m tired as hell, but I still can’t sleep. I’m too amped up. I’m about to be front row for a game I thought I’d never get to see. I’m about to attend the largest sporting even I’ve ever been to. I’m about to attend a big time college football game.

This is what I’ve been waiting for, ever since I opened that letter that said I would have a place at the University of South Florida.