By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls are back in town to finish training for a much anticipated season and they got a chance to meet the people that will be cheering them on Sunday afternoon.
Tons of USF faithful entered the gates of Raymond James Stadium for USF's annual Fan Fest shortly after the team logged in its first practice back in Tampa. Skip Holtz soon will be writing down game plays, but on this day he was autographing countless Bulls items for fans that lined up from about 100 yards out to wish USF's third-year head coach luck.
"It's that time of year that says the season is upon us. It's finally coming to an end - the spring, summer, offseason and camp. We're really starting to get into game mode now," Holtz said. "I love Fan Fest. It's an opportunity for players to intermix and mingle with our fans, and get up close and personal."
One fan that's been getting to know USF players for a long time is Jenny Keith, who has had season tickets since the Bulls started playing football. The Dunedin native has been to every Fan Fest yet and described the event as "fun family entertainment."
"We've grown with them. It's fun to follow something when you were there from the beginning and see what it's become," Keith said.
Keith noted that Fan Fest has grown quite a bit since USF football's early days and remembered meeting the players on the field after practices on campus.
"It was crazy. They'd invite us out and sign autographs," said Keith, who remembers about 500 fans visiting campus.
Perhaps the second-largest line to get under a huge tent at this year's Fan Fest was the one that led up to the quarterbacks, where star senior B.J. Daniels was a very busy man for the two-hour event. Tampa's Derrick Saunders is a fan that knows quite a bit about Daniels after coaching him at Lincoln High School in Tallahassee.
"I definitely try to get over here and see him as much as possible," Saunders said.
Saunders spent a good portion of his time in another place, however, and gave his son, Derrion, a big high-five after the little Bulls fan pushed over bags, ran around obstacles and caught a football in the end zone of the kid's fun zone.
"He loves football and he sees the other kids joining in. This is a great for them out here," Saunders said.
Another priceless father and son duo was season ticket holder Chris Waring and little one, Emery, who traveled over from Lakeland to attend their first Fan Fest.
"He heard that there was a USF party," Waring said. "...He's been talking about his USF party all day."
Waring didn't have too much time to chat because Emery was looking to hang out with Rocky, USF's mascot that's quite a hit with kids - and parents - of all ages.
Quote of the Day
"It will be on their mantels or their dart boards. It depends on what kind of season we have." Holtz's joke on where fans will place the Fan Fest photo they took with him.
Troy Douglas -- @troydouglas_23
@CoachHoltzUSF thanks for giving back to us fans
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