Kenyatta Jones, OL/1997-2000
Kenyatta Jones was USF's first left tackle and ended up being a four-year starter, taking the role as a freshman in USF's opening game and not giving it up until his college career ended after the 2000 season. Jones played in 41 out of 44 games during his four years, and he made a total of 38 starts during his career. (The only games he missed were due to injury.)
Of course there aren't any stats for offensive linemen, so it's hard to quantify what made Jones so good. But some of the supporting data can help paint the picture. During the time Jones was protecting the blind sides of Chad Barnhardt, Glen Gauntt, and Marquel Blackwell, USF only gave up 83 sacks in four years. The running game piled up over 7,000 yards, averaging 159.5 yards per game. And the team won 27 games in their first four seasons against steadily increasing competition. Anyone who was able to stay on the field for that long and continue playing well as the players across the ball got better and better should be considered for any list of the best players in USF history. That's why Kenyatta Jones makes the top 15.
Here's where we would normally talk about a personal memory of watching this player in action. But my memory is failing me on Kenyatta's football career, and he played before Toro's and Ken's eras as students. Plus I already used the story about watching Kenyatta play basketball at USF, so I can't cheat and use that. So instead I'll finish up with a passage from the 2001 football media guide. Kenyatta was the first Bull ever drafted by the NFL when he was chosen by the New England Patriots with the first pick of the fourth round, which helped his case when we were voting on this list. (He was also the first Bull to win a Super Bowl ring.) Strangely enough, the next two draft picks were also from USF -- Anthony Henry and Bill Gramatica. Here's the whole story, from Page 3 of the guide:
NFL Football Director of Operations Gene Washington took to the podium Sunday, April 22, to open Day 2 of the 2001 Draft and gave the entire "NFL Nation" a quick study in just how far the University of South Florida football program has progressed since its start-up in 1996.
Just after 11 a.m., Washington announced that the New England Patriots had traded to acquire the first pick of the fourth round and with that pick, the Patriots made USF offensive tackle Kenyatta Jones the answer to what will remain among the top trivia questions in USF history. The Patriots made Jones the first NFL draft choice ever from USF.
But Washington wasn't done with the study n USF success. He quickly stepped back to the podium and announced, "with the second pick of the fourth round, the Cleveland Browns select defensive back Anthony Henry, also from the University of South Florida."
Soon after Henry's selection, even Washington was wondering about this South Florida program. When he took to the podium to announce the third pick of the fourth round, he seemed almost mystified when he announced, "this must be some kind of record.
"With the third pick of the fourth round, the Arizona Cardinals select placekicker Bill Gramatica, from the University of South Florida."
One, two, three… an official run on USF Bulls in the NFL Draft.
Watching the television in his Tampa home, USF head coach Jim Leavitt literally ran circles through the house in sheer excitement.
"I'm going crazy," Leavitt admitted seconds after Gramatica was selected. "I just can't stand it. I'm so excited. I'm so excited."