It’d be near impossible for one student to impact every one of his peers on a campus of nearly 40,000.
But if there were a student to accomplish it, it would have been Milton Llinas.
Whenever USF Football had a game — home or away — he was there as Rocky, USF’s mascot, energizing the crowd. When USF’s Student Government had a potential campus-altering decision, he was in the middle of it, holding SG accountable as the chief justice on its Supreme Court.
Perhaps most prevalent, however, was the smile he greeted everyone he saw with.
“Whenever you met Milton, whenever anyone did, you walked away feeling like the day was going to be a good one,” said Moneer Kheireddine, a friend and a fraternity brother of Llinas. “You felt like the day had become just a little bit brighter.”
In his position in SG, his doors were constantly open to concerned students or senators. He always stayed impartial in decisions he made, always in the best interest of USF’s students, Kheireddine said. In some cases, he even ruled against his closest friends desires.
Others were always Llinas’ number one concern, Kheireddine said.
Even in the days after being diagnosed with leukemia in February, Llinas made it a point to make sure his closest friends were prepared to bear the news.
So, he made a phone call.
“He called me and said, ‘you have to watch out for them and make sure they’re okay,’” said Logan Holland, a friend of Milton who also served in SG. “Even in one of the worst moments of his life, he was worried about others. It was never about himself.”
Llinas would battle the disease for eight months, never losing his ability to inspire and bring smiles to his fellow students’ faces. He would succumb to complications from the disease on Oct. 11 at Moffitt Cancer Center. He was 23 years old.
Bulls fans, we lost someone special. Milton Llinas was the Chief Justice of the Student Government Supreme Court, Rocky the Bull and a 2017 USF Graduate. So young, so talented, with such a bright future. Gone way too soon. pic.twitter.com/aKggjk9T0W
— Mike Stuben (@Mike1625) October 11, 2018
“He truly left an impact on every person, not just who he knew,” Holland said. “There are people on this campus that don’t know him, but they’ve been impacted by him. Those who did know him, they looked up to him.”
At USF’s Relay For Life event in April, Llinas delivered a speech about the struggles of his disease and his drive to never stop fighting. Not just for himself, but for his family, friends and, most importantly, his two younger brothers with autism.
“My drive in life is to be successful, so I have enough to provide for them,” Llinas said about his brothers in a 2016 interview, over a year before his diagnosis. “(I want) to leave something behind for them.
“If something were to happen to my mom and dad, I’m all my brothers have.”
Llinas, a native Colombian, graduated from USF in December and said he had plans of attending law school at the University of Miami.
After his speech at Relay For Life, Llinas was joined by Kheireddine and Rocky to lead the crowd in USF’s signature green-and-gold chant, jumping up and down while he waved his hand high in the sky.
The 500-plus in attendance erupted upon the chant’s completion. They weren’t cheering for Rocky; they were cheering for Llinas. His smile wasn’t being hidden behind that of a smirking imaginary Bull’s head, but, instead, was on display for all to see.
If there was somebody who wasn’t standing after his initial speech, they were by now.
“That was one special moment,” Kheireddine said. “Until the end, he never changed. It was still always for others, always inspiring others while smiling and being so full of life, of joy.
“His impact wasn’t seen by direct contact and he never sought recognition in any way. He didn’t care about it. He just wanted to spread positivity.”