PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Welcome to the beginning of a new year and the end of an amazing ride.
All Knights fans know by now what this year’s senior class has experienced at UCF. Many of them started their careers with the Knights at college football’s bottom, 0-12.
Now, they’re here. They will spend their second consecutive New Year’s on the road in one of the sport’s biggest bowl games versus one of the country’s most recognizable brands. In the process, they have helped hoist UCF’s own brand from obscurity to national prominence. Now, with one game remaining in their careers, a few seniors talked to Black and Gold Banneret this week about this group’s legacy.
Offensive Guard Tyler Hudanick
Maybe this final game means more to Hudanick than any other senior. That’s because Hudanick knows the Fiesta Bowl will mark the last time he plays football.
Hudanick has dealt with left knee injuries throughout his career, including a torn left ACL in 2016. He said Sunday that he has been dealing with another left knee injury since the Temple game in November and needs to undergo microfracture surgery following the season.
“It’s my last one. This is it for me,” he said. “I wish the next level was an option for me, but I’m going under another surgery after this one and then I’m going to be hanging it up. Hopefully start my career coaching.
“For these seniors, it’s been a heck of a ride, from 0-12 to now. They’ve really seen this program go. Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if I had one word for this team, for this program since I’ve been here, and I said ‘growth.’ Just because when I got here to now, this place has changed, night and day.”
Defensive Tackle Joey Connors
“My main thing leaving here, I want to teach the younger guys to do the right things: Go to class on time. Go to tutoring. When you go to things on time, good things happen for you. When you show up late, do bad things, don’t follow the rules, that’s when the program starts going downhill.”
Offensive Tackle Wyatt Miller
“Five years ago, I couldn’t have chosen a better place to be through the ups and downs. I’ve been here for a while and to see the growth and gains, I think that makes you appreciate something even more, when you see a place where it came from to where it is now.”
“What I would like the legacy of the senior class to be is just resilience, a bunch of guys that are never going to quit. I think you’ve seen that this year. The couple of times that we’ve gotten down, no matter how far down we are. No matter what’s going on, we’re not going to lay down. We know we’re not out of it. It is important for us to have that mentality. A bunch of fighters. A bunch of guys that will get it.
”The mark of a man is what he leaves behind. Elderly men don’t take pride in the trees they plant but the shade it provides 100 years later. I want to leave this place in a better spot than I found it. So far, it’s in the right direction and I want to continue that.”
Defensive End Titus Davis
“I couldn’t ask for better teammates and better friends,” he said. “These guys have been great. They’ve been impeccable. It’s an awesome feeling to play with guys that love the game and love you as a person and are willing to give their last toe for you. I’m looking forward to just playing this game and doing it one more time with my team.”
Tight End Michael Colubiale
“Just getting here and experiencing my last bowl game, just trying to take it all in one more time. I’ve done a little bit of reflecting, just hanging out with all of my teammates one more time.”