Davis shows perseverance pays

Andre Davis, former University of South Florida wide receiver (2011-14), currently holds 13 football program records, including career receptions, single game receptions and career receiving touchdowns.

“I feel like I play a nice little part in USF history, being that I came in to USF and broke a few records.” he said.

As arguably the best receiver in USF program history, the “Freakshow” says it’s “a blessing” to hold these top spots, but more importantly to be a part of USF’s legacy.

“Just being able for players from the future to be able to come in and see my face on plaques is something that you dream of.” he said.

Though the former team captain has graduated and moved on from playing for the Bulls, he’s still active with the current team. He frequently attends practices, attends home games on the sidelines  and mentors current players, hoping to positively impact “future USF history makers.”

“I look at all the players and the younger guys up under me as little brothers. I tell them to be leaders and that even though there may be hard times, you have to fight through them.” he said.

Specifically, Davis mentors current USF safety Nate Godwin, as both classify themselves “Bay Made, Bay Stayed” after growing up in Tampa Bay and staying in the area for college.

“Me and Dre are very close. He just shows me how to handle success and be humble.” Godwin said. “He leads by example. He’s a legend in my books, and he’s a legend in their books. He’s one of the guys I know they’re definitely going to remember.” Godwin said.

When asked about the legacy he left as a Bull, Davis didn’t talk about his records, game-winning touchdowns, or making it in the USF history books.

“It’s more than that.” Davis said. “The legacy that I left here at USF is definitely being a leader, a hard worker, and a guy that persevered through a lot of things. That’s it.”

Since his days as a Bull, Davis had a short stint with the Buffalo Bills, and is currently a NFL free agent.

Steinbrenner Field hosts Tampa, New York fans

On the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Tampa residents can enjoy America’s favorite pastime at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Opened in 1996, Steinbrenner Field is home to the minor league Tampa Yankees and the New York Yankees spring training season. Its original name was Legends Field and was renamed George M. Steinbrenner Field almost a decade later to honor former Yankees owner, George Michael Steinbrenner.

“Mr. Steinbrenner, I know, was a very big part of the Tampa Bay community,” said Matthew Gess, the assistant general manager to the Tampa Yankees. “A lot of things here are built and maybe were passed by him.”

Everywhere you go on the facilities bears a little bit of the city that never sleeps. At the front entrance, visitors can see the numbers of retired jerseys from some of the New York Yankees, shop for some memorabilia at the Legends Room store and even pay their respects to the 9/11 Memorial.

“Being that we’re related to the New York Yankees, we do get our share of it because across the bay is the Rays,” said Gess. “A lot of snowbirds come down from New York, so they’re in the area and that plays a huge part into it. I know they love their Yankees down here. They get to see them a little earlier here than their regular season.”

Those who are not New York Yankee’s fans, but are still loyal to Tampa’s baseball teams, can check out the Tampa Yankees at Steinbrenner Field. Tampa’s minor league team plays at the facilities throughout the summer, attracting fans from all over the city.

“I know they like our affordability, our prices and the fact that we’re an open-air stadium and we’re outside,” said Jessica Lack, the digital/social media and community relations coordinator. “It’s just such a fun atmosphere here with all those kids cheering and everything.”

Kids are some of the Tampa Yankee’s biggest fans. The field hosts Kids Day Wednesdays, where local Hillsborough schools are invited to the stadium and students receive a free ticket and meal from the concession stands.

“The kids are gold,” said Lee Buese, a camera operator for the Tampa Yankees. “It really epitomizes the good times that the rest of the people have.”

Steinbrenner Field also hosts a variety of charity events throughout the year to give back to the Tampa bay community. Some of these events include Autism Awareness, Striking Out Cancer, Everyday Heroes and the Children’s Home of Tampa Bay.

“We do a lot of theme nights that give back to the charities to attract people to come,” Lack said. “Coming up next week we’re doing our Fight for Kids Night for a child who has stage four cancer.”

Tickets are on sale for Tampa Yankee’s games. For more about Steinbrenner Field, the Tampa Yankees and the New York Yankees spring training, visit steinbrennerfield.com.

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Student merges motivational message with apparel business

“Progressively Getting Better.”

The term coined by University of South Florida student, Imani Lee, is a social movement that encourages positivity and productivity.

“When I came to USF I decided I wanted to take the term to the next level,” Lee said. “I wanted to start my own company to actually use this message and incorporate it with a medium that everyone could use.

Lee believed apparel would be the perfect way to promote his motivational message. He specifically designed athletic apparel to allow athletes to define themselves, rather than being defined by the brand they’re wearing.

“It’s something unique in terms of not only providing an apparel line for athletes,” Shaquille Kent, a USF student said. “It’s a constant motivation. Whether its sports, whether its school, it’s always something that you’re progressively getting better at.”

Lee said he has plans to partner with businesses such as the YMCA and Alpha House of Tampa in order to host campaigns to spread awareness of the movement.

“We’re going to have basketball tournaments and we’re going to be doing food drives,” Lee said. “A portion of those proceeds that we collect will go to whichever company we’re partnered with.”

Lee said he also has goals of creating motivational workshops, a production crew and a record label.

“When I say progressively getting better I’m talking about now and in the future,” he said. “Me and you — all of us as a whole — we are connected. We do have a global conscious and we should make that consciousness more productive. This is the future.”

Wheels are rolling in Tampa

The 22nd Annual Tampa Am skating competition dropped into the Skate Park of Tampa, drawing out hundreds of people to watch young skaters prove themselves in the world of extreme sports.

The event takes place over three days, with two qualifying rounds and finals. The winner advances on to compete in Street League, a nationally broadcast skateboarding event that opens doors to sponsorship opportunities and professional skating careers.

“It’s kind of like an art, making my mind create things I like to do,” competitor Miles McKenny says about skating. “Seeing me progress is another good thing.”

This is something McKenny hopes he can pass down to future generations of skaters, saying that his favorite thing to do is help younger skaters work on their tricks.

There was a sense of community throughout the entire three-day event, and as the pool of competitors became smaller and smaller, the crowd became bigger and bigger. The sense of community is what keeps a lot of skaters going.

“You walk around and everyone has the same feeling as you,” Daniel Toss said. “It’s a good group of people and something fun to do.”

 

USF mascot a product of student petitioning

TAMPA, Fl.– Rocky D. Bull is an icon most known for his appearances at USF sporting events. The USF mascot’s history goes back some 50 years and is an essential piece of USF’s heritage, student life and athletic competitions.

“Higher-ups in the administration of USF wanted to have a mascot designated, so they left it up to the students,” USF Associate Librarian Andrew Huse said.

Students came forward with different suggestions including the Buccaneer, the Desert Rats and the Golden Brahman.

“A lot of people don’t know that Florida has a cattle history going back many centuries… and I think it was clear early on that the administration liked this one,” Huse said.

Conflict arose when the Buccaneer was the declared winner of the first student vote by a margin of three votes. Upon the naming committee’s discovery of a junior college in Pensacola already using the pirate as a mascot, a student petitioned for a referendum where the Golden Brahman Bull won.

When it comes to modern day Rocky, he is no longer a Brahman Bull. As just USF’s bull, he is now a nationally recognized mascot.

“Back in 2013 when Rocky won the Capital One Mascot challenge… It was a long season and every week we’d have to keep on voting and I remember by the end for our school to win, it was a big deal,” said USF cheerleader Heath Rinkus. “We were all really excited in the spirit department.”

 

USF dominates Florida A&M

The University of South Florida football team kicked off a brand new season against Florida A&M on Saturday. With a 51-3 win over the Rattlers, the Bulls’ new results have heightened fan expectations.

“Willie’s been working really hard with the team. It’s going to be really positive.” USF alumna Cara Zeph said. “I’m ready to see the student section this year. Hoping more fans come out!”

“It’s a great atmosphere. You guys put on a great show,” Bulls fan Matt Foy said. “We just need to start winning games. Like anything, when you start winning games, people come back and support your team.”

Support isn’t something the Bulls lacked at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday night, with a full student section and a total of 30,434 people in attendance. Head coach Willie Taggart contributes some of the team’s victory to the support of the fans.

“That was big time. Best student section in the country. I’ll tell you what, that’s a big reason the guys played like they did,” Taggart said. “We intend on playing that way and keeping it that way. That’s how Ray Jay should be.”

USF won by its largest margin since a 54-24 win over the University of Texas at El Paso in 2011. Quarterback Quinton Flowers threw two touchdowns and ran for another, while Marlon Mack rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown.

“From what I saw today from our guys we’re ready to win. We’re tired of losing. That’s not South Florida,” Flowers said. “Coaches stress that every day. Let’s get us back to where we were. When tickets used to be sold out. We were going to bowl games. So that’s where we’re trying to get South Florida back at.”

University of South Florida game still remembered today

TAMPA- University of South Florida played in its biggest game over eight years ago when they played against the West Virginia Mountaineers on Sept. 28, 2007.

The Mountaineers were ranked No.5 in the country and the Bulls were coming off big wins against North Carolina and an over-time thriller at Auburn. Tickets for the game sold out fast. Tampa Bay officially had Bulls Fever.

“There are sell outs and there are legitimate sell outs,” Jim Louk said. “And this was a legitimate sell out. You could not find a seat.”

When game time came around, the stadium was filled to the brim, and the crowd made their presence known. Over 67,000 fans were at the game. It is still the largest crowd that has filled Raymond James Stadium that wasn’t a Super Bowl game.

As the game kicked off the crowd was loud. It was the loudest stadium USF ‘s Matt Grothe had ever been in.

The Mountaineers led in every offensive stat. They outgained the Bulls 437 to 274, led in time of possession and had more first downs, but the Mountaineers lost 21-13.

The game was strange, there was a combined 10 turnovers between the two teams. None bigger than USF Ben Moffit’s interception return for a touchdown.

Late in the last quarter, West Virginia’s Pat White dropped back to pass and was picked off by Moffit who took it for six points. The crowd exploded. Grothe said the crowd reached near seismic levels.

Both Louk and Grothe said the crowd was loudest when the game ended. Fans stormed the field.

USF had officially arrived. Grothe believed it was a turning point for the program.

“It was just the beginning of the next few years that made everybody think differently about USF,” Grothe said.

The bulls are far from the glory days and hope to get back to their short-lived success. The game still resonates for players and fans alike.

 

 

 

 

Assault Survivor Empowers Women With Self-Defense

 

Hot Ninja Defenders creator, Caroline Portugal is changing the game for women empowerment throughout the area.

She has developed her own personal defense training specifically designed for women since she first started her business in 2013.

Portugal hosts everything from six week training courses, to personal training, to private women’s classes to teach women to protect themselves.

“Hot Ninja Defenders is a self defense course that I created specifically for women so that they can defend themselves if they were ever to be attacked,” Portugal said .

Her business was a success and made her Hot Ninja Defenders feel empowered, confident and most importantly, safe.

“Before taking these classes I had no idea how important it was to understand the technique behind it and it’s very important that women know these strategies,” gym goer, Bobbie Freitage said.

Portugal also hosts art classes and charity events to help raise money and awareness to women who have been personally affected by street assault.

“If one person comes out of this seminar utilizing one of the techniques that I taught them and it helped saved their life, then I know that what I do for a living is everything that I’ve always wanted to do,” Portugal said .

Find classes near you at ninjadefenders.com.

Former MLB hopeful Christopher Reynoso pursues career as a firefighter

 

RIVERVIEW — Christopher Reynoso is far from  your average 22-year-old. He can’t remember the first time he played baseball, but many of  his fondest memories revolve around the sport. He often spent his afternoons playing baseball with his friends and going to Yankee games with his grandfather.

‪Reynoso played for school baseball teams for years and was offered a full scholarship to Wabash Valley College in Illinois. After a year in school, he received a call from the Diamondbacks organization. They were interested in recruiting him to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a scout came to see a few of his games.

“He came up to me and asked if I was interested in becoming part of the organization,” Reynoso said.

‪Becoming a Major League Baseball player was Reynoso’s lifelong dream. Unfortunately, his dreams were dashed.

‪“After a few months of strenuous activities and overuse, my shoulder decided to give out on me” Reynoso said.

Reynoso sought medical assistance, but no one could figure out what was wrong with his shoulder. His professional baseball career vanished.

‪Reynoso decided to pursue a different dream–becoming a firefighter. He is an EMT and is going to fire school, where he has learned many new and interesting things.

‪”He called me one day and he told me basically that he had to try and resuscitate an already deceased person,” Reynoso’s best friend Josh Fernandez said.

‪Reynoso is satisfied with the turn his life has taken and is determined to reach his new goal.

Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball’s youngest player prepares for national championship game

Adrian Powell is the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs wheelchair basketball team’s youngest player. Powell joined the team in 2010, a year after he was injured.

Powell had never played basketball and relied heavily on his older, more experienced teammates to teach him the sport and provide him with support.

“Everything I learned is from them,” Powell said.

In his first year on the team, the Tampa Bay Strong Dogs played in the wheelchair basketball national championship game. Powell received first-team tournament for that game, and this put him on the recruiting radar.

Powell was recently offered a full scholarship to play basketball at the University of Texas. He is taking classes at Hillsborough Community College to get the credits he needs to start at the University of Texas by next year.

Powell and the Strong Dogs have been practicing every Tuesday and Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in preparation for this year’s national championship tournament in April.

Jose Rodriguez, who has been with the team since it began in 2008, feels confident that the team’s practice will pay off this year.

“With the same heart, same intensity, and hopefully we can get it done again,” Rodriguez said.

Before leaving for Kentucky to play in the national championship tournament, the Strong Dogs will get national exposure in their hometown. The team will play a scrimmage game at the halftime of the NCAA Women’s Final Four Championship at the Amalie Arena on April 5.

USF exercise researchers say short, high-intensity workout can replace hour of cardio

People too busy for lengthy workouts can breathe easier since researchers at the University of Tampa’s Human Performance Research Lab discovered that higher-intensity workouts can be as effective as an hour spent on cardio.

“What we found is that very, very intense, extremely intense, nauseating sprinting movements can actually deplete in 30 seconds, like, 30 percent of your carbohydrate source in your muscle,” said Jacob Wilson, associate director of the graduate program in exercise and nutrition science.

Wilson conducted the Wingate test, in which the subject uses a special stationary bike to perform this high-intensity workout. There are 10 stages, and weight is added at each stage. If participants do 10 out of 10 sets, the workout takes only 2 minutes and burns more fat than an hour of normal cardio.

“We’ve found as much fat loss, actually more, with that than doing an hour of traditional cardio,”  Wilson said. “It’s also better for athletic performance as well. You’re more powerful, and it actually helps you gain lean mass.”

UT graduate student Chase Hollmer is a bodybuilder who values staying in shape.

“I’d have to say it’s probably the most efficient form of cardio there is. I love it and recommend it 100 percent,” Hollmer said.

A Wingate bike is expensive. In order to apply this science to your workout, Wilson suggested getting a partner for your next gym visit.

“First, you start off for a few seconds and you sprint all the way out with no weight,” Wilson said. “Then, your partner suddenly moves the weight all the way up on the treadmill or on the stationary bike or on the StairMaster, so now you’re mimicking what we’re doing in our lab.”

Wilson plans to expand his quick-workout routine to Powerhouse Gym in Tampa.

Photo gallery: USF’s men’s club prepares for soccer games at FSU, UM

The USF men’s club team is a student run organization in which USF teams play soccer and compete with other universities, such as the University of Miami and Florida Gulf Coast University. The team trains Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m. at Sycamore Fields, which is open to  all USF students who want to join the team.

This gallery shows players preparing for the upcoming games at Florida State University and the University of Florida in March.

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Training at Sycamore Fields usually takes about  an hour and consists of structured drills followed by intense, small side games, all run by the president and officers on the team. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)

 

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Bryce Driscoll, a junior majoring in criminology, plays for the USF men’s club team and is also one of the team’s officers. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)

 

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Tryouts for the team are held at the beginning of each semester. Any USF student can use this opportunity to try to make the team. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)

 

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Jose Estrada, a sophomore majoring in public health, plays on the left wing for the club team. Jose joined the team  during the fall 2013 at USF.   (Photo by Tom Turnbull0

 

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Felipe Diaz and Jose Estrada play ball and warm up in a cold night at Sycamore Fields. They warm up before the team comes together and start training. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)

 

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The boys usually train in small groups. (Photo by Tom Turnbull)

 

 

 

 

 

The photos were taken at the men’s soccer team’s training at Sycamore fields on Feb 20th.  About 30 players attended the session, even though temperatures were in the low 40’s.

 

 

 

 

USF track record holder plans to run for Bahamian national team after graduation

With graduation quickly approaching for many college students, anxiety and excitement is palpable at the University of South Florida.

The answer to the million-dollar question, “So what are you doing after graduation?” is different for every student.

Alfred Higgs, a USF criminology senior, plans to run track for his home country, the Bahamas.

Higgs came to the United States in 2010. He was able to attend USF on an athletic scholarship. A school record holder for the 4×100 relay, he played every sport in high school but stuck with track because he liked an activity that did not require a team.

“I was always athletic,” Higgs said. “And I think I just have the natural talent of running. So, I always liked running.”

On May 1, instead of wearing a green cap and gown to his graduation ceremony, Higgs will wear the Bahamian national colors, aquamarine and gold.

According to Higgs, the biggest cultural difference between the U.S. and the Bahamas is the food.

“When I came here, I wanted to go home because I couldn’t find a decent meal anywhere,” Higgs said.

Higgs has decided to run for the Bahamian national track and field team after graduation.

USF jump roper doesn’t let injury hinder competitive spirit

TAMPA — From playgrounds to gyms, people of all ages jump rope for fun and fitness. Graduate student Kaylee Couvillion, however, combines both aspects as a competitive jump roper.

Couvillion, a graduate assistant in the University of South Florida’s Exercise Science Program, has been jumping rope for over 15 years. Having competed all over the U.S. and abroad, Couvillion’s jump roping career was halted when she was injured during a complex trick in November.

“I was on the very bottom level of this big multilayered trick that was happening,” she said. “The ropes missed, and then the next thing I know, the back foot got landed on by the guy on the top of the trick.”

Couvillion tore her plantar fascia and injured her big toe, leaving her unable to jump rope for two months. In addition to not being able to jump, she feared what her injury would mean for her as a graduate assistant teaching Boot Camp Fitness.

One of Couvillion’s students, Norma Cacho, was nervous when she saw her instructor in a boot on the first day of class.

“I was a bit skeptical of her at first,” Cacho said. “I mean, how much could she really teach us with a boot on her foot? Kaylee definitely proved me wrong. She would do pushups, lunges, and a bunch of workouts better than any of us — and we weren’t injured.”

Almost three months after her injury, Couvillion is slowly jumping back into the game. She even has her eyes on a jump rope competition in Orlando this July.

“I want to compete at least one more time,” Couvillion said. “Maybe more after that. It just depends on how my body holds up.”

Clearwater swimmer Sidney Pickrem commits to making Canadian Olympic team

Sidney Pickrem has taken her sport of swimming to an elite level most people could only dream about.

She is an eight-time Florida state champion and is training to make the Canadian National Team. In about 10 months, she hopes to fulfill her ultimate dream, making the Canadian Olympic team. If she makes the team, she will compete with the best in the world in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Swimming has been the biggest part of my life,” Pickrem said. “I started when I was 6 years old. I always enjoyed pushing myself. I like the fact that it is a sport in which you don’t have to depend on anyone but yourself.”

There is no off-season in swimming. It is a year-round, intense training schedule with nine practices a week, two of them beginning at 4:45 a.m. Sticking to this schedule is physically and mentally challenging. However, the payoff is part of making your dreams come true. In Pickrem’s case, this includes getting a full scholarship at Texas A&M.

“Coaching an athlete like Sidney makes coaching fun. You can give her any workout, and you know she will give it her all. A lot of kids in the sport these days are not willing to do that. “

Pickrem is expected to qualify as the No. 1 seed in both the 200IM and the 400IM. She is also hoping to make the team in one of her off events, which is the 200 Freestyle.

Bloomingdale High softball athlete finds her true swing in golf

Elizabeth Jackson is a two-sport athlete whose future career could have swung one of two ways.

A senior shortstop in her fourth season at Bloomingdale High School, Jackson helped guide her team to the Class 8A State Softball Championship last year, leading the team with 38 hits and 24 home runs scored to a 27-2 record. Jackson  was named to the First Team of All-Hillsborough County Softball Team.

“It’s pretty amazing to have an opportunity to coach a player of her caliber,” said Mark Braddy, head coach of the Bloomingdale Bulls softball team.  “There are very few that come along, so I’m happy to have her.”

Jackson’s talent doesn’t stop at the softball field.  She is also an avid golfer.  She turned down an opportunity to play softball at the University of Arkansas to accept a golf scholarship to Daytona State.

“It was a really tough choice. Softball is different.  There’s only so far you can go with college,” Jackson said. “There’s really no pro league after that.  But for golf, you can make it so much farther, play in the LPGA, and ultimately, I’ve always wanted to be the No. 1 player in the world.”

Jackson wants to finish her softball career competing for the state championship once more. In six games this season, the Bulls are 5-1.  Jackson is hitting an astounding .615 with 8 hits and 9 runs scored.

“I really hope that we can repeat the state title again.  It’s probably a long shot, but we have a really strong team with a bunch of new incoming freshmen that replaced the seniors last year, and I think our shots are pretty good to go to states again,” Jackson said.

USF Student Shares love for Juggling in Objects in Motion Club

Joseph Lawlor, the president of the Objects in Motion student organization, brought his hobby of juggling to the University of South Florida three years ago, and he plans to keep it alive on campus for years to come.

Lawlor, a USF senior and electrical engineering major, began juggling during his sophomore year of high school. He was assigned a project in his English class that required him to learn a new hobby and write in a journal about his experiences. He considered picking up break dancing at first, but when he saw one of his friends juggling at a party, he decided to give it a shot.

“I picked it up weirdly fast and thought the whole idea of object manipulation was so cool and different,” said Lawlor. “I just started to really love everything about it.”

When Lawlor came to USF in 2011, he and Jesse Lutz, a fellow student and juggler, sought to form a student organization where other jugglers and students interested in learning could meet, practice and grow as a group. This resulted in the formation of the Juggling Awareness Society at USF.

With the growth of student interest in other types of object manipulation, Lawlor renamed the Juggling Awareness Society to the Objects in Motions club to cater to a wider range of interests. Today, Objects in Motion is a community of jugglers, hula hoopers, poi spinners, unicyclists and slack liners who collaborate to teach and learn from each other on campus during weekly meetings.

“Joseph and the other members have taught me that hooping is a way to harmonize your mind, body and spirit,” said Brianna Privateer, USF psychology major and member of Objects in Motion. “It’s like a peaceful meditation, and the possibilities are endless.”

Lawlor welcomes students of any age, experience and interest to join the club. Objects in Motion hosts weekly meetings every Thursday from 8-10 p.m., Monday from 2-4 p.m. and Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. outside of the USF library.

Lawlor says that the most interesting place that juggling has ever taken him was to a juggling camp in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania last summer. He worked as a driver at the camp and taught a juggling class for one period a day, but spent all his free time with the camp’s trapeze group. Here he met and shared stories with a group of international jugglers from France, Spain, England and Australia.

Lawlor wants to continue juggling as a sport and a passion. But above all, he wants to keep the sport of juggling alive in the USF community by continuing the Objects in Motion club for years to come.

“I really love Objects in Motion just as much as I love juggling, and I want to keep that going forever,” said Lawlor. “Giving the art of juggling its own organization has been the best decision I’ve made since I’ve been at USF and has proven to be the easiest way to meet the most interesting people out there.”

Video: C.R. Willey brings championship pedigree to USF disc golf team

C.R. Willey is not your average USF coach. He is a four-time disc golf champion.

And with Willey’s help, the USF disc golf team has a chance at the top 10 this year and — possibly — a national title.

Willey, a veteran of the Professional Disc Golf Association, has trained some of the top professionals in the league, including 12-time champion, Ken Climo.

“It’s nice that you are actually learning from somebody that has actually won (championships),” said Chris Crist, USF’s team founder and captain.  “He’s been playing for so long. He’s taught a lot of people how to play and a lot of pros how to play.”

While Willey was on the PDGA tour, he was approached by some of USF’s players, who asked him if he would be interested in coaching the team.

Willey didn’t hesitate in saying yes.

“Heck, yeah,” Willey said. “I would like to see USF win a national championship in disc golf. I’d like to see them win it in football, too — baseball or anything for the university. Let’s take it to the next level.”

Willey also played baseball at USF for a time. But one day, when he saw students playing ultimate frisbee, Willey knew his love and passion was for disc golf.

With more than 40 PDGA victories, he is considered the best thing that has happened to USF by its young group of players.

“We’ve qualified for the National Collegiate Championship, and we almost beat the reigning champs in a qualifying tournament that the USF team ran in Largo,” Willey said.

The National Collegiate Disc Golf Championship starts on April 15 in North Augusta, South Carolina.

Video: Christopher Hethcox turns lifelong passion for cheerleading into remarkable career


TRINITY — As an aspiring male cheerleading coach, Christopher Hethcox seemingly had the odds stacked against him early in life.

“The stigma of being a male cheerleader was something that was rough in the rural parts of Alabama,” Hethcox said.

But Hethcox didn’t let it bring him down. At age 13, Hethcox knew he had a passion for tumbling and gymnastics.

Twenty-two years later, Hethcox has turned that passion into a career as an instructor with All-Star Cheerleading at the Suncoast Gymnastics Academy in Odessa.

Though the profession does not necessarily have a large salary, Hethcox said he isn’t in it for the money — he just wants to help his athletes grow.

“I think I love the process of the training, performing, watching the development over the year of an athlete that’s had this place where they started,” Hethcox said.  “And then, where they end up.”

Hethcox coaches multiple levels of cheerleading with All-Star Cheerleading and has won multiple championships.

Competing at that level, Hethcox said,  is something that can give competitors butterflies. But for him, it’s all about keeping his team calm.

Mark Sczcepanik, whose daughter is coached by Hethcox, described him as passionate and driven.

“Coach Chris has done an incredible job with our daughter,” Sczcepanik said. “She went from never cheering ever six months ago to just doing an incredible job, thanks to his fine coaching.”

Hethcox doesn’t need praise, though. He just wants it to be about the kids.

“I want them to become sisters that they would do anything for each other,” Hethcox said.