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This is why I think we'll beat RU - inspiration (and having the better team)


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From the St Pete Times today...  http://www.sptimes.com/2007/10/16/Sports/Face_to_face_with_ins.shtml

Face to face with inspiration

Battling leukemia, Jeff Wagner meets USF players for the first time.

He has inspired the Bulls from afar, in letters and words of encouragement, andMonday afternoon, USF's football team got to meet Jeff Wagner in person.

The 44-year-old USF alumnus, who is responding well to a bone-marrow transplant in his battle against leukemia, walked with the aid of two canes to the middle of 100-plus players in the end zone of a practice field and thanked them for how they've inspired him in their rise to a No. 2 national ranking.

"I want to let you know what kind of impact you're making, not only on me, but on so many people, just by staying with your focus," Wagner told the Bulls. "I thank you for your commitment and dedication to what you're doing. You're leading by example and setting the stage for something wonderful."

Surrounded by players wearing wristbands bearing his inspirational motto, "FINISH STRONG," Wagner closed his words by getting down on one knee, taking off his green Bulls cap to reveal a head left bald by chemotherapy treatments and leading his favorite team in prayer.

Bulls coach Jim Leavitt, who has been getting letters from Wagner since before the season, called him Friday night and invited him to speak with the team. He has sent a few personal letters each week to Bulls players, who have talked about the motivation they've found, thinking of their own lives and remembering the battle he has been up against.

Many players shook hands and took pictures with Wagner, including punter Delbert Alvarado, who was so moved by his letters that he got the words "FINISH STRONG" shaved into the back of his head three weeks ago.

"It's not about me," Wagner said. "It's about what I think is right about life, about the university and Tampa Bay and Coach Leavitt and his faith and beliefs. ... It means a lot to be asked to come out here and say some words for Coach. I'm just an alum, just an average student who has a lot of pride. I love being around student-athletes, seeing them grow and reach their full potential."

Wagner reminded the Bulls how they beat Auburn on quarterback Matt Grothe's 21st birthday, then asked for a favor: get another key road win against Rutgers on Thursday, his 45th birthday.

"You talk about resolve and courage and toughness and heart and overcoming adversity, it's nothing compared to what he goes through every day," defensive line coach Dan McCarney said. "He's stronger and tougher mentally than anyone we've got on this football team, I'll promise you that.

"What a neat story. It parallels off the field what we're trying to do on the field: overcoming obstacles and adversity and climbing the mountain.

"That's exactly what he does."

[Last modified October 15, 2007, 23:06:02]

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I really believe that Mr. Wagner is a huge reason for our success this year and his "finish strong" is something the team has taken to heart.

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Wagner is our Gipper.  All I have to say is beat the hell out of Rutgers and let Ford pound them and Grothe out finese them.

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That was a great story. I got goosebumps when I read about the favor for beating Rutgers on his birthday. I really believe that we can win out and make it to New Orleans if our team plays like they did against WVU, Auburn and UCF. They will shut Rice down just like Kevin Smith and force Mike Teel to throw a ton of INT's.

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