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Palm Beach Post: Dad knew Hester would lift Bulls


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Dad knew Hester would lift Bulls

By RON CASTOR

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jessie Hester knew better than most of the fans at Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. They were thinking South Florida was about to be stopped on third down, with a field goal and a second overtime next.

But Hester, whose son, Jessie Jr., is a receiver for USF, saw an upset in the making.

"I told my wife just before the snap that if he ran the right route, he was going to be open," said Hester Sr., who was watching the game from his Wellington home. "Because of the particular coverage that they had, I knew the guy wasn't going to be able to cover him. Once I saw the route, I knew the game was going to be over."

Dad has that sort of football vision because he once was in the same position as his son.

Jessie Sr., 44, was a star receiver at Glades Central High School and Florida State before playing for 10 years in the NFL.

Jessie Jr. also played at Glades Central and Saturday night, he went from promising player on the Bulls' roster to go-to guy, catching a 14-yard touchdown pass in overtime for a 26-23 win over then-No. 17 Auburn.

His dad's premonition was right on, and thanks to Jessie Jr., USF pulled off the biggest win its 10-year history.

"People are saying it's my breakout year, but when you look at it I really didn't do much my first game," Hester Jr. said. "Things just happened to go right for me against Auburn. Hopefully, I can play like that every week."

The redshirt sophomore finished with six catches for a career-high 64 yards.

The Hesters say they saw the potential in USF's program, so they're not surprised that the Big East team is quickly catching up to the Big Three of Florida, FSU and Miami.

"They weren't part of the Big Three, but I knew this program was going to get bigger, and they have," Hester Jr. said.

Said Jessie Sr.: "A lot of the time when you go to these big schools, you get caught in the numbers. I felt he would have the opportunity to come in and play."

The Bulls' shocker didn't push them into the Top 25, but Jessie Jr. isn't worried about rankings.

"I really thought we were going to get in, but it'll come around," he said. "Most of the players could really care less."

Rankings or no, USF coach Jim Leavitt knows that Hester already is part of the program's rapidly growing history.

"His catch speaks for itself," Leavitt said. "It's one of those plays that will be remembered by USF fans."

Back home, Jessie Sr. said his phone hasn't stopped ringing with calls from family members and former teammates. He isn't surprised by his son's success.

"When he was 2 or 3, he showed he could throw and catch a ball, something a kid his age just wasn't able to do," Jessie Sr. said. "He was just a phenomenal athlete at a young age."

Perhaps that's why Dad stayed calm after the big catch.

Mom?

"My wife, she was all over the place," Jessie Sr. said. "It was pandemonium."

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