Brian Fisher against Army in 2003. We don't condone his off-the-field problems, but we do condone his short burst of on-the-field awesomeness.
This post is sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
This is a pretty difficult one. Let's face it, we don't have decades and decades of players from which to choose our favorites. Plus our "15 for 15" project might make this post completely redundant. (I think there might have been a fistfight between me and Ken to write about watching Matt Grothe play.) So today we're going to write about our favorite non-top 15 guys, or our favorites from other sports. Here we go.
Voodoo 5's Favorite - Brian Fisher
Let's just get this out of the way at the beginning. Off the field, Fisher was a serial bad-decision-maker. He was such a train wreck that it finally led to him being removed from the team before the 2004 season, and rightly so. But in his short time on the field, Fisher was concentrated awesome. He wasn't an every-down player by any means, but when he did get on the field, good things usually happened.
The 2003 season was a weird one. It was the Bulls' first year in Conference USA, but halfway through it USF found out it was leaving for the Big East. That led to two absolute blood-lust road games against East Carolina and Memphis, both of whom were livid that USF got the nod over them. (Just to twist the knife even deeper, the Bulls won both games in soul-crushing fashion.) Then-athletic director Lee Roy Selmon accidentally scheduled two teams that wins against them couldn't be used for bowl eligibility, which meant the 7-4 Bulls couldn't go bowling at the end of the season. And we found out quickly that Ronnie Banks, who had the already unenviable task of following Marquel Blackwell as USF's starting quarterback, just wasn't up to the challenge. Fisher was going to take some snaps at quarterback that year anyway, but after TCU broke Banks's brain by knocking him down about 80 times in a single game, Fisher actually started the next week before Pat Julmiste worked his way into the mix.
Fisher was barely 5'9", and there was no way he actually weighed the 190 pounds that the media guide said he did. But he was quick and elusive, he specialized in improvisation, and he could run the option, which turned out to be crucial in a game that might have altered the course of the entire history of the university.
October 4, 2003. Louisville vs. USF in the Bulls' first C-USA home game. 36,000 people showed up, the second-largest crowd in program history at the time. Both teams scored quickly, and then the game settled in. USF had a 14-7 lead going into the final quarter, but the Cardinals struck for two touchdowns in less than two minutes to grab a 21-14 advantage. In the waning moments, though, the Bulls put a drive together and worked their way down to the goal line. (Fisher kept the drive alive with a 15-yard reception on 4th and 6 near midfield.) Then the drive stalled, and USF was faced with a 4th and goal at the 1-yard line with only 13 seconds left.
I was at this game and had snuck into the student section, so this fateful play unfolded right in front of me. Fisher lined up under center for the first time and ran a perfect speed option with Clenton Crossley. Right before he got hit, Fisher pitched to Crossley, who strolled into the end zone to tie the game with 10 seconds to go, leading to total chaos among the students. USF ultimately won the game in the second overtime as the students all rushed the field, and later Mike Tranghese, who was also in attendance, cited it as proof for him that USF wouldn't be in over its head in the Big East. The invite came one month later, and we've all seen the explosion of growth and prosperity (both athletically and for the University as a whole) stemming from that day. So for playing his small role in that pivotal moment for USF, Brian Fisher is a favorite player of mine.
Toro Grande's Favorite - Marlyn Bryant
Marlyn Bryant certainly didn't have great natural basketball skills. He was typical of many Seth Greenberg recruits in that he was a great athlete. And when that raw athleticism got a chance to be on display, it was something special to watch.
And nobody, and I mean nobody, played the game harder than Marlyn.
He usually got stuck guarding the other teams best perimeter guy, doing all the dirty work, and doing whatever his assignment was for that game like he took a lunch pail to the Sun Dome. If it was running through screens to harass a jump shooter, he’d do it. If it was guarding a point for 94 feet and making his life miserable in every way possible, #1 was your guy.
Marlyn was also one of the best you'll ever see at swarming the offensive glass for tips, putbacks, and ridiculous follow up dunks. I'll never forget the one he had against UAB at the conference tournament in Cincinnati in 2002. It was a SportsCenter Top 10 Play, and I think his head would have fit in the target square on the backboard when the ball went through. For a guy that was just 6'3", it was take-your-breath-away incredible.
He was a lock to end up somewhere in the seats or on the scorers table diving after a loose ball at least once per half. He wasn't a great shooter, but if someone left him and the ball got rotated back to him, he could catch it and finish as well as anyone. He also specialized in scaring the crap out of anyone attempting to take a charge on a fast break with him flying in from the wing. That's because not only didn't the defender know where Marlyn was going, Marlyn didn't know where Marlyn was going. But when he got wherever it was he was going to end up, it would be with full force and thunderous vigor, be it eye level with the rim while throwing it down and giving a primal scream for another two points, or in a photographers lap.
Every basketball team needs a guy like Bryant. Someone that doesn't care about their stats, but does whatever is needed to win, brings a ton of energy to the court, and just plays his ass off. Marlyn averaged 5.5 ppg for his USF career on 44% shooting, and thus never looked impressive on a stat sheet. But that's because stat sheets don’t have columns for heart, guts, hustle, energy, and "holy shit did you just see that" moments.
Ken's Favorite -Derrick Sarosi
Offensive Lineman never get any love on the football field. Except for the occasional FAT GUY TOUCHDOWN, your role as a lineman is to not have your voice uttered by the fans, and Sarosi was hardly mentioned by anyone. Sure announcers would talk about Sarosi being a 4-year starter, and that they would occasionally bring up this picture taken after the Pitt game in 2001.
But Sarosi quietly played three stellar years at left tackle after starting his freshman year on the right side. He started an amazing 44 games for the Bulls, helping the Bulls transverse going from 1A Independent to Conference USA. Back and shoulder injuries did hamper his senior year, but he played through them while not missing a single game in his career. He was poised to sign a Free Agent contract with the Kansas City Chiefs before he failed a physical due to the injuries he accumulated. But he, like many other Bulls that helped steer USF to the Big East should not be forgotten.
So why is a lineman my favorite player? It helps that I was a lineman in high school, and like I said before, it definitely pushed him up 20-30 rungs on the ladder that he is from my hometown. If there was a style that you wanted to copy as a lineman, it was Sarosi. He was aggressive enough to take out a player one on one, but knew position and how to stop any type of rush move.There aren't too many people who have D-1 offers from Astronaut High, and those that do more often that not flame out after a couple of years and are back home. Sarosi is the lone exception with the recent grads. (Wilbur Marshall, Cris Collinsworth, and Kenny Calhoun did very well for themselves in the pre-USF era.)
So who are your favorite players ever to don a USF jersey? Any that are under the radar players that most wouldn't recgonize out of a police lineup, but you could recite their 40 times and how many career yards they ran for?