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Dear USF Football Seniors: Thank You.

USF is not here without you. And I’m not here without you.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at South Florida Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Thank you Quinton. Thank you Deatrick. Thank you Auggie. Thank you to every single senior. You made me a believer again when I thought all hope was lost and changed my entire life.

Without these seniors, I’m not covering USF athletics for TDS. I’m likely well on my way to not using the degree I got from my dream school, and stuck behind a desk at a job I hate.

During the 2015 season, my mom got pretty sick. To cope, I turned to a team I had fallen out of love with for nearly five years. I needed something to take my mind off my life as I knew it changing forever. So I started watching games again, and pretty soon I remembered why I loved this school.

It’s because of guys like Quinton Flowers. After all of the losses he’s had in his life, he could still smile through it, I knew I could make it through losing my mom.

Quinton said he wanted to be the guy to change the course of history at USF, and by God he did just that. He owns 22 school records, including career rushing touchdowns (39), total offense in a season (4,342), and total offense in a game (516). He’s on pace to pass former running back Marlon Mack’s career rushing record (3,609), and he’s just 95 yards away from passing former quarterback Matt Grothe’s record for total yards in career (10,875). All of this nearly never happened.

Before the 2015 season, former head coach Willie Taggart had to re-recruit Flowers. The quarterback expressed his desire to transfer after a roller coaster 2014 season when the Bulls went 4-8.

Where is Taggart if Quinton transfers?

“That’s a hard question to answer,” Taggart said in a phone interview with TDS last week.

It’s nearly a certainty Taggart doesn’t last the 2015 season, USF football climbs deeper into the hole, and Taggart isn’t at Oregon.

October 24, 2015:

This is the day my mom died. It was on the Saturday of the SMU game. I got back to my house around 2 p.m. after spending Friday night and Saturday morning at her bedside waiting for the inevitable to happen.

After about an hour sitting in complete silence in my room, I went to my best friend’s house to watch the game. I needed something to do. So I turned to USF for comfort. The Bulls rolled the Mustangs 38-14 behind 201 yards rushing from Flowers. His best friend and up-and-coming lockdown cornerback Deatrick Nichols had nine tackles.

November 20, 2015:

USF had just come off the 44-23 beatdown of then-ranked Temple, and I wanted to go to the Cincinnati game. I asked my girlfriend if she wanted to go and she said yes. It was her first USF game ever and my first game since FSU at home in 2012. We got end zone seat on Stubhub about eight rows up for $10 each.

And in that seat, I believed again.

This moment. Deatrick Nichols intercepts a Hayden Moore pass and takes it back the other way for a touchdown. I was sitting in that end zone. I will never forget the feeling I had after that play. I knew I was all-in on this team. You gave me something to smile about for the first time in nearly a month.

Thank you Deatrick for this.

Best recruiting class in program history?

And that doesn’t even include 2013 signees Darius Tice, Deadrin Senat, and Auggie Sanchez, or NC State transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Top to bottom, this is the best senior class USF has ever had.

The only recruiting class that produced nearly the same amount of talent is the 2005 class, featuring Matt Grothe, George Selvie, Taurus Johnson, Jessie Hester, Jr., and Amarri Jackson (who did not push off).

“They were a special group,” Taggart said about the 2014 recruiting class.

Taggart credited the 2014 class with changing the culture in around the program. When he first got there, Taggart said he’d never see players around the Selmon Center in their free time, but it all changed with that class.

“It was one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make because of those guys,” Taggart said about taking the Oregon job.

Who knows what the Black Friday game against C. will hold, but this senior class will always be remembered for joining a program after a 2-10 season. Now, four years later, they are on the cusp of playing for their first conference title and a shot at a New Year’s Six bowl.

The stadium feasibility study doesn’t happen without you. The announcement for an indoor practice facility doesn’t happen without you. And I don’t get through the single worst tragedy of my life without you.

“Thank you. I love you. And I’m very, very, very proud of you.”