USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Ryne Giddins is one momma's boy you don't want to mess with.
USF's rising star of a defensive end has a soft spot for his family, but line him up on the field and he's a much different man - just ask the Huskies. The redshirt sophomore had the breakout game of his USF career last week when he posted a career-high two sacks and 11 tackles against Connecticut.
"That's pretty darn good," defensive ends coach Vernon Hargreaves said.
Such a performance could have never happened if Giddins' mother, Sabrina, stuck to her guns when he was a young boy. Giddins started out playing baseball and other people's requests for him to play football initially were turned down by a concerned mom.
"I kept saying, 'No' because I was scared he would get hurt," Sabrina said. "When I did it and saw him play, I was like, 'Wow,' he's got something there. I pushed him to keep going."
What transpired was a heck of a high school career.
Giddins was named a USA Today and Parade Magazine First-Team All-American following his senior season at Armwood High School. Offers flowed in from places like USC, Florida, Florida State, Miami, Auburn, Clemson, North Carolina and Tennessee before he became a Bull.
National accolades came along quickly, but one thing always has been a constant for Giddins - his supportive family. Sabrina was there for him at every practice and game growing up, which isn't always an ideal situation for a boy, let alone a man.
"Everybody was like, 'Oh, your mamma is over there,' trying to kid around," Giddins said. "I took that to heart because I knew my mom really cared. She made sure I stuck with it."
Sabrina, a mother of three, said she's very close with all her children, especially with Ryne.
"He used to get on the bed with me and we'd talk about anything whether it was personal or not personal," she said. "He'd sit down and discuss with me what was going on with his life. I enjoyed that because I thought that was a blessing for me."
The blessings have continued for Sabrina. Her young boy has grown into a huge 21-year-old man, but it hasn't stopped him from saying "I love you, mom," for no apparent reason during car rides home to Seffner or giving mom hugs and kisses at any given time.
"He'll try to sit on my lap, but he can't do that anymore," said Sabrina of her 262-pound Bull.
BUILT FOR THE GAME
Giddins started playing football at about the age of 5 and was athletic enough to play running back or linebacker before settling into his current role later on.
Positions have changed, but not his stature.
"He was the biggest one on the team," said Sabrina of Giddins' football years as a boy.
That made it difficult for him and another close friend that wasn't small at all at the Pop Warner level, when kids have to weigh in before games.
"They would have to strip," Sabrina said with a laugh. "They couldn't eat in the morning. They couldn't drink anything. They couldn't do anything until the game. We used to laugh at them."
Another thing that hasn't changed for Giddins is his intensity and the certain "umph" he brings on the field.
"It was kind of scary at first to watch him hit and to be hit sometimes," Sabrina said. "Once we sat down with Ryne and asked what he wanted to do, we could see that he enjoyed that physical contact."
The hunger for contact was really apparent in high school when Giddins racked up 27 sacks and 173 tackles in his final two seasons at Armwood. Giddins wants to play in the NFL one day and such statistics gave him a great jumpstart in the chase for the dream.
"I was like go for it if that's what you want to do," said Sabrina about Giddins' football aspirations. "Be the best at it and don't let anybody stop you. It's got him this far and I'm very proud of him."
A STAR FALLS BACK TO EARTH
Being a multiple All-American and All-State selection as a prep athlete, Giddins thought his fast track to stardom wouldn't slow down one bit once he slipped into the green and gold at USF.
"My first thought was I'm going to play right away. I'm going to go out there and dominate and do what I did in high school," Giddins said. "Little did I know high school is not like college."
Giddins' first day of practice with the Bulls was an eye-opening experience.
The speed was accelerated. The players were "grown men," and they weren't going to let Giddins just step into a starting role because of how good he was in high school.
"Some people have families to feed and they're trying to make it to the next level and I'm in their way," Giddins said.
Giddins ended up injuring his ankle and was redshirted during his freshman year.
"That was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "I got to see and experience so many things."
Last year was another learning experience for Giddins, who posted moderate success with 3.5 sacks and 19 tackles in 12 games.
Soon the Bulls would be expecting much more.
FINDING HIS FOOTING
Through three years, Giddins had seen players like George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul become superstar defensive ends at USF.
This offseason was the first time in a while that USF wasn't as deep at the position and Giddins knew it would be his time to really step up.
"I had a lot of expectations coming into the season," he admitted. "A lot of people wanted to see a lot out of me and it kind of threw me off track about what I really needed to do."
Prior to UConn, Giddins had one sack and 13 tackles in five games while he struggled a bit in 3-4 formations.
Giddins' coaches, and even his mom, told him to go back to the basics.
"Just worry about getting better. Just worry about practicing hard," Hargreaves said. "That's one thing he didn't do very well in prior years. That was one thing we tried to emphasize."
USF had a bye week before heading to UConn, and Hargreaves and defensive coordinator Mark Snyder kept noting Giddins was standing out with his extra effort.
"Last week he probably had as good a practice as he's had since we've been around here," Hargreaves said.
Coaches kept Giddins in a 4-3 formation against the Huskies, which let him come off the edge of the line and do what he does best. The result was Giddins returning to his old form and earning a spot on the Big East Weekly honor roll.
"I started to break out of my shell a little bit and show my true colors of who I really am working in the system," he said.
Time will tell if Giddins can build on his breakout game, but his head coach has seen enough to sport a smile when he talks about the Bulls' mamma's boy.
"You can almost watch him grow up as the year goes on each and every week," Skip Holtz said. "He continues to mature."
Mamma certainly is proud as well.
"I keep telling him, 'Do what you do best,' " Sabrina said. "Be safe and have fun."