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Staying the course

As soon as true freshman Bobby Eveld led USF downfield for the tying score late in USF’s 23-20 win at Miami on Saturday, talks of the team’s future – as well as Eveld’s – were inevitable.

With quarterback B.J. Daniels’ availability still in question, combined wit Eveld’s clutch performance, all signs point to the freshman making his first career start against Connecticut on Saturday.

But from there, the future remains unclear. Eveld, a walk-on who didn’t know if he’d even be playing football at this time last year, said he is just going to let things play out – just as he’s been doing all along.

“I really don’t know what the situation is going to be,” Eveld said. “Obviously, there’s going to be a possibility that I play, but that’s just like any other week, so I’m not going to blow this week out of proportion. I don’t want to make it like a big circus or anything like that. I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing for the whole season.”

Eveld has stuck with that plan ever since he decided college football was in his future. Drafted by the New York Mets as a catcher, Eveld made a tough decision after contemplating whether to play Division II football, baseball or try his luck as a preferred walk-on at USF.

With Daniels the sure starter entering camp, Eveld battled fellow true freshman Jamius Gunsby for the backup spot. With Gunsby suffering a hip injury, weeks of hard work earned Eveld the No. 2 spot in fall camp.

And back then the coaches were well aware of his potential.

“When he came in, I think he impressed everybody,” coach Skip Holtz said. “And I’m not just talking about the coaches. He’s run with the twos the entire season. He goes against our defense every day. He’s very smart. He’s very poised. He’s very developed for a true freshman.

“The thing is, you don’t know as a coach. To watch him, you’d get encouraged, and we’d say, ‘Bobby’s really going to be good one day.’ You just don’t know how he’s going to respond when he’s thrown into that pressure-cooker. Not everybody responds the same way when those lights turn on. We all knew what Bobby could do. If you asked every member of this team, they’re not surprised with what Bobby did.”

When Eveld entered Saturday’s game after coaches told him Daniels couldn’t continue, he admitted he was nervous, especially after not knowing at halftime that he would even step foot onto the field.

“I didn’t know for sure,” Eveld said. “A lot of people came up to me and said, ‘Be ready.’ I had a feeling, but at the same time, I didn’t know right before kickoff.”

After the team mustered just three points in the first half, Eveld went on to lead the Bulls to two touchdown scoring drives in regulation and a game-winning one in overtime, finishing 8-of-15 for 120 yards and a rushing touchdown (no interceptions). For quarterbacks coach Peter Vaas, Eveld’s performance was nothing less than “a little bit of magic.”

“I told Bobby, ‘You’re not allowed to be a freshman,'” Vaas said. “He took it to heart. I said, ‘Bobby, you’re well prepared for this. Let’s go and have some fun.'”

Vaas said Eveld, who made a habit of perfecting his throwing skills after each practice, was poised for success with his incredible work ethic.

“As soon as Bobby made the decision he was wholeheartedly coming to South Florida – as soon as the baseball draft expired, his heart was in football,” Vaas said. “So it started back in summer school where Bobby would say, ‘Hey, coach, what about this? What about that?’ He’s just a very conscientious young man who crossed the t’s and dots the i’s. He’s been prepared for a long time.”

For Eveld, he’s just enjoying the ride.

“It was a different transition – something I never really been through before,” Eveld said of his path to a potential starting job. “I feel like the coaches and players really supported me and my family supported my decision. I think they’ve helped me a lot along the way.”