Growing up, Kayvon Webster was a “Miami guy.”
“I had ‘Cane hats, hoodies, sweaters – all that,” he said.
Webster’s love for the Miami football program hadn’t changed much when it was time for him to make a decision on where he’d play college football. He was still that same Miami guy.
“Twenty-four hours before signing day, I was a ‘Cane,” he said.
Webster, who committed to play for Miami in September 2008, said it all changed with one phone call.
On the morning of national signing day in February, Webster, still a Hurricane commit, said he received a call from Troy Douglas, then-defensive back coach for USF.
Douglas, who left the Bulls for North Carolina in the off season, told Webster that a defensie back commitment had fallen through, urging Webster to search his heart.
“He was like ‘Kayvon, we only have two (defensive backs) coming in,'” Webster said, knowing he’d have to compete for playing time at Miami. “Two versus five? Two sounded good … I was pacing back and forth: Where do I want to go?”
Webster said he wasn’t quite ready to decide at that point – just hours before the deadline to sign – bringing two sets of papers, one for Miami and one for USF, to his signing period. Before he made his decision, he remembered a conversation he had with USF coach Jim Leavitt.
“I didn’t want to sign. I wasn’t going to sign,” Webster said. “Coach Leavitt came to me and said make a decision based on where you want to go. Don’t go somewhere where somebody else wants you to go. Go somewhere where you’re going to feel comfortable. I think that’s what I did. I feel like South Florida is my home.”
To return the favor, Leavitt made Webster feel right at home during his national signing day press conference. Leavitt told Webster that if he signed with USF, the first words he would say would be “Kayvon Webster.”
Leavitt walked up to the podium, sat down and said, “Kayvon Webster,” keeping his word.
And just like the promise the USF coaching staff made to Webster about playing time, the Miami Monsignor Pace High graduate has asserted himself as a mainstay in the Bulls’ secondary.
Webster now prepares to face the team he grew up rooting for in one of the biggest games in USF history: when the Bulls face the Hurricanes at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
“It’ll probably be one of the biggest games in USF history,” said Webster, who attended most of Miami’s home games over the years but never made an official visit to USF. “(A win) will put USF on the map. It’ll put USF on the highest stage.”
Webster was one of 28 recruits in Leavitt’s class last year, which was one of the best in school history. High school teammates of Webster, freshmen receivers Sterling Griffin and Derrick Hopkins, also came to USF.
Griffin, who has 250 receiving yards and two touchdowns, said he knows about half of Miami’s team, and he’s exchanged text messages back and forth with some of them throughout the week.
“I knew those guys growing up,” Griffin said. “Last year, when I was at school they used to come and talk about it because they knew we were going to be on the schedule. It’s going to be friendly, but we’re going to get after it. It’s no beef or anything. It’s going to be a great game. We have great players. They have great players.”
USF last played Miami in 2005, with the Bulls suffering a 27-7 loss. After finally getting another shot at one of the “Big Three” in Florida earlier this year, USF beat FSU 17-7 in Tallahassee, which only enhanced the state supremacy talk, while the USF athletic department went as far as placing a billboard on I-275 that insinuated the Bulls had made it a “Big Four.”
Leavitt, who denounced the billboard, certainly didn’t downplay the significance of a USF victory on Saturday.
“It’s that big,” Leavitt said. “I’ve wanted to do this. I wanted to make this happen because I thought it was important for the University of South Florida.”
As if the day needed any more emotion, it will be senior day, and defensive end George Selvie among others will make his last appearance at Raymond James Stadium in a Bulls’ uniform. He said beating Miami would be “special.”
“We have another chance to play another team in the ‘Big Three’ and they’re coming to our house,” he said. “It’s a big deal for us.”
For Webster, leading his team to victory over the team he had committed to play for would only reinforce his decision to play for USF.
“Everybody thought (the game) had extra meaning to me because I was committed there so long,” Webster said. “It is a big game. I want to show people that you can go outside of where you’re from and play good football.”