Saturday evening’s game at FIU Stadium against Marshall will be the last tunnel run-out and Alfonso Field walk off for 12 seniors.
Even a 1-8 season filled with blowouts hasn’t turned them into 12 angry young men. Or, at least not 12 pouty young men.
“We’ve got a lot of guys with extremely high character. And the senior class is leading the way,” FIU coach Ron Turner said. “Those guys could’ve shut it down a long time ago. Guys who have a chance at a pro career could say, ‘I’m not risking a pro career for this.’ I’ve seen it happen. Not one of them have done that. They’ve taken the other approach. They’ve shown tremendous leadership and guts. Because of that, when we get this thing turned around and we win, they’re going to be a huge part of this because of the legacy they’re leaving, what they’re showing the young guys.
“The young guys not picking up on it – and it’s a small handful – will not be here.”
Here’s some perspective on Saturday and their FIU experience from three seniors, defensive linemen Greg Hickman and Isame Faciane and cornerback Sam Miller:
How much will Saturday mean to you?
Hickman: “Saturday’s going to mean everything to me. I came here as an 18-year-old kid. I’m leaving out as a 22-year-old man. Ready for everything to come. Ready for the tears, ready for the excitement.”
Miller: “(Saturday) means a lot to me. I was one of the guys who came in rebuilding the program. Just all the experience and growth I had out here and everything I learned – not just football but life – it’s crazy how fast things go by. It’s going to be a very emotional night for me.”
Faciane: “My family’s coming down (from New Orleans) for the first time since I’ve been here. It means a whole ton. I’m going to come out with even more emotion and passion. I’ve got to put it all out the best I can for the last home game of my FIU career.”
What’s your fondest memory from games at FIU Stadium?
Hickman: “Every week is a memory, from watching film, seeing the funny things that happen, win or lose. The fondest memory I have is probably my freshman year against Rutgers. I wasn’t expected to play and I got in, doing what a lot of freshman don’t do the first game of the season.”
Miller: “Troy, my sophomore year. That was my first interception. I couldn’t get off the field. I was celebrating for 15, 30 seconds out there and Coach (Mario) Cristobal had to call me off. Growing as a cornerback, learning the game, getting that first interception was a relief.”
Faciane: “Just playing in front of my peers. I know a lot of people who go to school here and they know me. Whenever I have a good game, them tapping me on my back or stuff like that, just making me feel better about it.”
How tough has it been having a senior year like this?
Hickman: “It’s been frustrating at times, but win or lose, my team is giving it all they’ve got. I can’t go back, look at any film and say ‘Nobody’s working hard.’ We’re a little shorthanded this year. Things happen like that sometimes. New coach, basically, a new program. I expect next year to be a big year for them.”
Miller: “It would be tough for any competitive team. Things haven’t clicked how we thought it was going to go. We had to battle through adversity. We’re just focusing on finishing these last two weeks strong.”
Faciane: “I wanted to have a solid senior season, leave out with a winning record. It didn’t happen as planned. But I’ve got to come out every week to prepare myself to win a game and play the best I can so I can at least have something to look forward to after this.”
You’ve been playing on a bad ankle for a while. Would you have sat down for a bit if you were, say, a sophomore? “I think I would’ve sat down for a game or two if I had the time to waste. But this is my senior year, when every down matters. I have a dream and a goal that I want to accomplish, so being hurt isn’t an excuse.”
Senior cornerback Sam Miller:
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned? “As a freshman, get your priorities straight. Have everything in line in life. Everything doesn’t revolve around football. I had to see a bigger picture, not just with my work ethic with football, but with life and the classroom.”
Favorite memory of FIU Stadium games:
Senior defensive tackle Isame Faciane: Favorite memory of FIU Stadium games: How tough has this season been?