With success comes recognition, and the USF football team honored its own Saturday at its annual banquet. Seniors Marquel Blackwell and Kawika Mitchell put the periods on their careers by snagging the Offensive and Defensive MVP honors.
Blackwell culminated his four years in Green and Gold with 9,108 yards passing and more than 10,300 yards in total offense. Both of those numbers set school records, as did Blackwell’s statistics in 17 other categories.
In 2002, USF rocketed to a 9-2 record behind 2,590 yards passing off Blackwell’s right arm. The fifth-year senior passed for 18 touchdowns and three interceptions.
Mitchell, like Blackwell, anchored himself as a key cog of the Bulls’ 31-13 mark the past four seasons. After transferring from Georgia, Mitchell started the first game of his career, the 1999 season opener against San Diego State, which was the first USF game vs. a Division I-A opponent.
The 255-pounder out of Winter Springs started eight of 11 games his first year and every game for the next three seasons except one, which he missed for a funeral. Mitchell broke his own school record this year with 117 tackles and scored a touchdown on a 56-yard fake punt.
Both Mitchell and Blackwell will play in the Gridiron Classic all-star game in Orlando Jan. 25 along with six other Bulls. Mitchell will also represent USF in the Hula Bowl Feb. 1.
Other awards presented Saturday were the Offensive and Defensive Playmaker of the Year awards, which went to Hugh Smith and J.R. Reed, respectively.
With USF records for receptions (62) and yards (661) in a season, Smith was an easy choice for the offensive honor.
On defense, Reed snared top billing by surpassing his school record five interceptions in 2001 with six this season. The junior free safety was second on the team in tackles with 95 and recorded seven pass breakups.
DeAndrew Rubin’s three return touchdowns (two on punts and one on a kickoff) easily landed the senior from St. Petersburg the Special Teams Player of the Year award.
Derrick Sarosi and Greg Walls latched onto the awards for best linemen. Sarosi, a sophomore, was the Bulls’ top offensive lineman after protecting Blackwell’s blindside at left tackle.
Walls, a senior defensive tackle, took the Defensive Front Seven award after posting 18 tackles for loss and five sacks in his final season.
Chris Carothers started every game at right guard, helping him take home the 2002 rookie of the year award.
Defensive back Drametrice Smith was recognized with the Overachiever award for his work in strength and conditioning during his redshirt year.
Vinny Capogna and Devin Kennedy earned the Golden Bull Award for their work on the scout team. Kicker Justin Geisler was the Scholar Athlete winner.
Junior linebacker Julian Johnson, who played in all 11 games and had 11 tackles, won the Green & Gold Pride award for best walk-on.
For his dedication to team goals, senior defensive tackle Tavares Jurineack received the Lee Roy Selmon award, presented to the individual that displays great courage and perseverance.
For leadership on and off the field, wide receiver Chris Iskra and defensive back John Miller became the 2002 recipients of the First Teamer award.