By Trevor DeGroot

TAMPA,FL — Part of building a good college football program is recruiting talented players your backyard, and USF has quite a few on their roster.

Over 20 call Tampa their hometown, with a total of 36 that live throughout the Bay area. Head coach Willie Taggart believes the hometown athletes represent more than just the football team.

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“They’re a big part of helping to build not only our football program but bringing the community together,” Taggart said. “It’s going out and playing football at a high level and staying out of trouble and graduating. The more we can have guys do that around here the better it is for the community.”

Linebacker Nigel Harris has lived in Tampa all his life. A graduate and standout coming out of Hillsborough High School, he gets constant reminders to make Tampa proud.

“It’s awesome. After the games or even before the games people call you up and they say, ‘Put on for the hometown,’ or whatnot. I just do it for the love of the city,” Harris said.

Another Tampa native is safety Nate Godwin. The sophomore out of Freedom High School says it is easy to bond with a team with many familiar backgrounds, while at the same time a blessing to make his out-of-town teammates feel more welcome in the Tampa Bay community.

“It’s a great feeling to represent the hometown,” Godwin said. “I’m from here, I definitely grew up here, so to be able to play in front of everybody and to have the support system I have it definitely pushes me want to work harder.”

“A lot of guys that aren’t from here they see us and they want us to show them around Tampa and show them the things we used to do when we were little. It definitely makes it easier for us to show the other people around Tampa.”

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And if they’ve noticed, their fellow senior wide receiver Andre Davis is on the 1-275 billboard near downtown Tampa. David says he was thrilled and honored to represent the football program and the city when he found out in the offseason.

“I basically heard it every day this summer and it’s definitely a nice experience,” Davis acknowledged. “I definitely thanked Coach T for giving me that experience and letting me be on that billboard.”

Davis says that with that recognition comes a lot of responsibility, saying it is a big motivator.

“It fuels me a lot because being on a billboard, that’s a big task at hand,” he said. “I want to go out there and make it happen for the city.”

In regards to this season, the Jefferson High School star obviously wants to make his last year the best he’s ever had. Not just for himself, but for his fellow teammates. Davis believes it will take young players like Nigel Harris, Godwin, and his quarterback Mike White to get them there.

“It’s definitely going to be critical for the freshman from last year to jump into that role,” Davis admits. “It’s definitely going to be big for him (White) to come in, being that he’s our starting quarterback. It’s definitely going to be big for him to jump and grow up real quick. He has to do it, he’s out guy now and that’s what we need.”

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