BY DEXTER MCCREE, Feature Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Jerius Flowers was excited about what was to take place last Saturday. He and his Lakewood Jr. Spartans football team was scheduled to play in a scrimmage at Raymond James Stadium during halftime of the University of South Florida facing the #19th ranked Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers are a top contending team in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and in some polls are predicted to win the Big Ten Conference. The South Florida Bulls have a few notable names on their side from St. Pete.
Flowers was ready to take it all in.
The Bulls season started with a 50-minute weather delay due to the effects of Hurricane Dorian. There was also much anticipation of the season for Gary and Melissa Roland who waited out the delay to cheer for their son, Zion Roland.
A sophomore who plays defensive back for the Bulls, Roland came from Admiral Farragut Academy and joined the Bulls last year as a speedy wide receiver. Late last season, he began the transition to defensive back.
Flowers recognized another familiar person on the sidelines for the Bulls from St. Petersburg. Shaun King, a gunslinger from Gibbs High School and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, is now USF’s running backs coach.
In 1995, King was an offensive star at Gibbs High School throwing for nearly 2,000 yards in his senior year. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2016.
King was named USF’s running backs coach by head coach Charlie Strong in Jan. of 2017. He previously served one year on the Bulls’ coaching staff as the quarterback coach in 2016 under then-head coach Willie Taggart.
When the action finally started, Wisconsin took the opening kickoff and marched down the field, scoring on a 37-yard touchdown run. Did the weather delay stifle the enthusiasm of a new and exciting season for the USF?
If it did, there was no carryover to Jerius, who is a cousin to former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers. Jerius excitement was because he was attending his first college football game and the first time in Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The loud cheers and chants in the student section of the stadium and the booming sounds of USF Herd of Thunder Marching Band playing in the tunnel increased Jerius’ adrenalin level.
“I’ve never had this kind of experience. We had an opportunity to tour the locker rooms and walk around the stadium. It was fun going up on the pirate ship. Today was good,” said Jerius, a freshman at The Boca Ciega High School and member of Lakewood Jr. Spartans, Midget division.
Jerius was also accompanied by his parents, Major and Denese, along with his two sisters. It was a day that the family would never forget.
On the football side, things didn’t go so favorably. Jerius and his teammates’ excitement about playing on the same field as the Bucs were derailed. Rain and the condition on the field had something to do with it.
It was disappointing for Jerius, and the outcome of the game did not help either. The Wisconsin Badgers crushed the Bulls 49-0. For sure, the Rolands and Coach King shared his sentiments.
For the first time watching a college game in a professional stadium, it was not a bad experience. One day, Jerius could be the one waiting on the field for the kickoff. Dreams do come true!
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