Senior wide receiver Jessie Hester has taken on some big challenges and set plenty of marks in his career.
Coming off an ankle injury that ended spring football, Hester said he’s ready to take his game to the next level.
USF’s leading wide receiver and offensive MVP in 2008 looks to make even more changes to the Bulls’ record books in 2009. Hester needs 39 catches this season to break Hugh Smith’s career mark of 131 receptions. With the season looming, the senior hopes to make an impact on this year’s team.
“I would really like to set some records that stand for a long time, so that one day I can look back on them with my kids,” Hester said.
Early last season, Hester became one of quarterback Matt Grothe’s usual targets, pulling down two touchdowns in the season opener against UT Martin. The lopsided victory jumpstarted a season where he grabbed 54 passes, tying him for second all-time in season receptions and extending a record-breaking streak of 22 consecutive games with a catch.
Hester’s ankle injury still hampers him to this day – so much that coach Jim Leavitt isn’t sure if Hester will be fit for the Bulls’ season opener against Wofford on Saturday.
Regardless, Leavitt said Hester is a huge asset to the team.
“He’s proven to be a hell of a football player, and I don’t think he needs any extra motivation to get back into form,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of players that can play his position, but they’re not all Jessie Hester. Right now we need to get his timing down with the quarterbacks.”
Hester said he is eager to get back on the field.
“Physically, I’m feeling right – I’ve got all the games on the schedule circled,” he said.
A senior, Hester knows the Bulls face one of the toughest non-conference schedules in school history, playing in-state foes Florida State and Miami.
Hester is used to being on the big stage, though. In 2007, Hester was on the receiving end of one of the biggest plays in USF history, a game-winning catch against No. 17 Auburn, which pushed hte Bulls into the top 25 and onto a run that carried USF to No. 2 in the polls by midseason. Hester had six catches in that game.
“It was a great feeling to hear the SEC crowd go silent. I was on top of the world,” Hester said.
This season, Hester focuses on winning against his father’s alma mater: Florida State.
Jessie Hester, Sr. played four seasons as wide receiver with the Seminoles and led the team in receptions in 1983-84. He went on to play in the NFL.
“My dad has always been there for me, growing up on and off the field, but he won’t be able to help me from the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium,” Hester said.” I know there will be a lot of energy in Tallahassee.”
Hester is trying to get back on the field and focus on improving his knowledge and timing in the offense under new offensive coordinator Mike Canales and wide receiver coach Phil McGeoghan.
“(Hester) brings a lot of experience to the squad,” McGeoghan said. “He’s a real football player, and he’s going to have a big role on this year’s team. He had better have his mind right.”