Senior Night/Day is always an emotional time in football.  The game on the gridiron is unlike any other. When a player is finished playing in high school, college, or professional they never play again.  There are recreation leagues for baseball & basketball. People can play tennis & golf into their golden years. But Football is temporary. Many players say years later that their last college game was the last time they wore pads. My friend Chad Rimpsey (Defensive End Opposite Elvis Dumervil) watches games wearing his helmet at his home.

Football has an impermanent quality that forces a heightened value on each game in a short season.  Every player, trainer, manager, coach, administrator, & secretary puts in an exhaustive amount of time & effort into a season that lasts 13 games.  Each of these facets of the program pays a cost.  That cost could be distance away from family, time away from family, early mornings, late nights, sore bodies, broken bones, torn ligaments but through it all…….Football is family.

Last year Louisville Football said goodbye to 12 seniors (many who were originally walk-ons) last season & will say goodbye to 17 this year.  In an age of over-signing the maximum of 25 in a given recruiting season the number of departing seniors year to year reveal the level of attrition that this game produces.  College Football is a mental & physical grind that not only tests physical limitations but also builds & reveals character.  Those that make it to their Senior Day and get the honor of hearing their name called on the field with their family the final time on their home turf, HAVE EARNED THAT HONOR.

Even more so for those that aren’t household names.  The walk-ons, the trainers, the student managers all show up to meetings, workouts, and practice without the applause.

This group on Saturday is special.  The 4th year seniors came in with Charlie Strong & his staff and started a new era of Cardinal Football. This group is 34-15 with 3 games remaining, won the Sugar Bowl, and are headed to their 4th consecutive bowl game.  Many of these guys came to Louisville after a 4-8 season, a coaching change, and during an uncertain time.  The history of Cardinal Football will always be indebted to this group of 17, but the final tradition this group can establish is winning on Senior Day.  The Cards are 0-5 in their final games of the season the past 5 seasons.

Preston Brown

Preston Brown came to Louisville after flipping his commitment from his hometown Cincinnati Bearcats.  Now instead of one hometown, he has two.  I’ll never forget Preston Brown’s 3rd game on the road against Oregon State…..he looked like a freshman. But Brown has had a steady progression and ended last season with an outstanding performance against Florida in the Sugar Bowl.  At the end of last year I would have said that Preston had a chance to play in the NFL, now I believe he’ll definitely be drafted next April.  I’ll never forget the vampire mouthpiece.

Preston Brown currently has 277 career tackles, 19.5 TFLs, and 5.5 sacks.

Marcus Smith

Marcus Smith came to Louisville from Columbus, GA as a quarterback.  Charlie Strong & Vance Bedford both remarked at Marcus’ arm strength, but have noted that his accuracy with equally unremarkable. Smith was lost at linebacker as a freshman having never played defense and has matured into a defensive presence to be reckoned with.  Currently Marcus is 2nd in the nation in sacks & is also 8th All-Time in Cardinal History with 21 QB takedowns.  Smith also cracked the Tackle For Loss Top 10 last week and has time to climb further up the rankings.  Marcus is a perfect fit for a stand-up OLB/DE in the 3-4 defense at the next level.

Marcus Smith currently has 79 career tackles, 21 sacks, and 30.5 TFLs.

Hakeem Smith

Hakeem Smith is a 5th year senior and 3-time (maybe 4-time) All-Conference Selection.  I’ll never forget when the Depth chart emerged during the 2010 Fall Camp and many people looked at Hakeem in the #1 spot at Strong Safety and said: “Who is Hakeem Smith?”

Hakeem came in quietly from Jonesboro, GA and also has a quiet disposition.  But Smith does not play quietly.  He is fearless.  Coach Bedford often says about Hakeem:  “He isn’t the strongest, he isn’t the fastest, but he gets the job done. And he isn’t scared of anybody.”

Smith red-shirted in 2009 during Steve Kragthorpe’s last season and has seen the football program come full circle.  Hakeem has 278 career tackles, 2 sacks, 13 TFLs, and 3 Interceptions.

Damian Copeland

“Honey Mustard” or “Pineapple” came from Palmetto H.S. in Bradenton, FL and is also a 5th-year senior who red-shirted during the 2009 season before Charlie Strong arrived.  Damian was an enigma from 3 years.  Everyone who went to open practices would rave about Copeland, there were often reports about how well he was playing each Spring but then come Gameday Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium didn’t have any Honey Mustard or Pineapple.  After Copeland’s 2012 & 2013 it’s going to be strange having a season without our favorite fruit & condiment on the field at PJCS. Fun Fact:  Copeland is my mother’s favorite player. 

Damian had just 8 catches as a freshman and sophomore and had a BREAKOUT season in 2012 when he led the Cards in receptions.  Copeland is Louisville’s leading receiver again in 2013 and currently has 1341 yards with 100 catches and 6 Touchdowns.

Brandon Dunn

Brandon Dunn said this week that he came to Louisville as a ‘half a star’ from Pleasure Ridge Park High School.   But Dunn’s impact was instant despite his lack of stars and played right away as a freshman.  The interior defensive line is a tough place to gain notoriety, especially with the double teams that happen.  The best sign of a good Defensive Tackle is a good middle linebacker.  Preston Brown has been outstanding the last two seasons at the MLB spot and Dexter Heyman also benefited from playing behind Dunn.

Louisville Football is always better with Local Products who are key pieces of the puzzle.  Dunn certainly meets that description.  I will however, always be disappointed that Brandon did not pick up Jeff Driskel’s fumble for a TD in Sugar Bowl.

Brandon has 83 career tackles, 3 sacks, and 7.5 TFLs.

Senorise Perry 

Senorise came to the Cards from Chattooga High School in Summerville, Georgia.  Perry is a 4th year senior that was outstanding as a true freshman on special teams & appeared for a brief period at cornerback when Bobby Burns missed a few snaps with an injury. Before his sophomore season, Senorise asked to move to running back and had limited opportunities to run the ball but was OUTSTANDING on special teams.

As a junior though, Senorise broke out in the first 9 games and was incredible before tearing his ACL against Syracuse and missing the rest of the season.  This season Senorise is averaging 4.7 yards per carry after coming back to action in an unbelievable amount of time following ACL surgery.  Senorise is very fast and is also crafty between the tackles.  My favorite Perry rush might be a tie for his TD against WVU in 2011, his long TD against Kentucky in 2012, or his long TD against Pitt last year.

With 2 more touchdowns Senorise will enter the Top 10 in Louisville Football History for Career Touchdowns and will tie Anthony Allen & Lionel Gates.  Senorise has 1231 yards & 18 Touchdowns for his career.

Roy Philon

Roy is my favorite type of Cardinal.  A highly productive Card from Lexington who broke out against Kentucky which he did in 2011 during his sophomore season.  Philon was all over the Cats that night and established himself as a 3 technique who could get into the backfield. Roy had some troubles with his health throughout his junior season, but despite that he is just 5.5 Tackles for loss from breaking into the Top 11 in Louisville History for Tackles for Loss in a Career.

My favorite Roy Philon moment is his goal line stand against South Florida last year. He has 106 tackles, 22.5 Tackles For Loss, and 8 sacks in his career as a defensive tackle.

George Durant

George Durant is a great story.  He walked-on to the Cards from Boca Ciega High School in St. Petersburg, Florida and slowly grew his role as a very solid SAM Linebacker that the Cards have relied on quite a bit the last two seasons.  My favorite George Durant moment was after the Sugar Bowl in post-game:  “I’ve got a message for all the haters……..how you doin’!?!?!?!”

Durant has 53 career tackles, 8 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks in his career.

BJ Butler

BJ Butler was a HUGE recruit coming out of Osceola High School in Kissimmee, FL where Butler was a performer on offense & defense and I’ve heard even punted for his high school team.  At Louisville BJ has done a little bit of everything for the Cards as well.  Butler started several games as a true freshman at defensive end and recorded several sacks.

Butler’s Sophomore year was significantly more quiet than his freshman year, and as a junior Butler’s role was in flux for most of the season.  And then the Sugar Bowl came and BJ Butler was the best kept secret in New Orleans when he appeared at fullback and caught 2 huge receptions.  Fullback has been Butler’s permanent role since then and injuries have slowed him this season. My favorite BJ Butler moment is definitely his 23-yard reception that nearly scored in the Sugar Bowl.

Jarrett Davis

Davis came to the Cards from Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia and was a part of Charlie Strong’s 1st recruiting class.  I really like Jarrett’s game and I’ve always thought he could be excellent in the slot.  He was needed as a true freshman and since has been at a crowded position.  Still Davis has 19 catches &  156 yards for his career.

Ryan Hubbell

Has been at Louisville for a short time having transferred in from Iowa Western Junior College.  Hubbell came and filled a HUGE need at Tight End at a time when the Cards were desperate at that position.  Hubbell’s 72-yard TD against Temple in 2012 is easily his best moment, but Teddy Bridgewater calls his Tight End “Mr. Reliable” and that should count for something.

Hubbell has 25 receptions for 433 yards and 2 Touchdowns.

Kamran Joyer

Joyer is very versatile as he can probably play any position on the offensive line, but has played a major role at Guard and Center.  In 2013 Kamran has been exclusively at Right Guard and has had trouble throughout his career staying healthy.  Joyer has been very good when he has been available, but he is always someone I will think might have been much better had he been able to stay on the field.

Deon Rogers

Deon was a big get out of Treasure Coast High School in Port St. Lucie, Florida and played right away as a true freshman.  Rogers has been a great special teams player and I always believed he would factor more at  the Will Linebacker spot if he could gain about 20 pounds.  But that weight never came.  My favorite Deon Rogers play was in the Belk Bowl on an onside kick when Rogers leveled an NC State player going for a loose ball.

Champ Lee

Champ is a 5th year Senior from Lake Gibson High School that redshirted the 2009 season.  Lee has been very valuable on special teams and has gotten a lot of run in goal line defense.  Lee moved back & forth between safety and linebacker but has settled into the linebacker role the past two seasons.

Chris Walker 

Is a walk-on from Louisville Ballard & is Connor Galle’s favorite Louisville football player.

Anthony Branch

Is a walk-on from DuPont Manual High School.

Alex Witcpalek

Is a walk-on from Oswego, Illinois.

I wish I knew more about the walk-ons that are departing for the Cardinals.

 Juniors

Obviously some Juniors will be departing the program as well.  Who those are right now are not determined but safe bets are Teddy Bridgewater & Calvin Pryor.  Charlie Strong was not ready to say that anyone was leaving the program at his press conference on Monday, but if either Bridgewater or Calvin Pryor are on the Louisville roster in 2014 I would be shocked.

The only other junior that might take a close look at his options is DeVante Parker.  But I think Vante returns for a senior season while Pryor & Bridgewater capitalize on their value in the 2014 April Draft.  When/If a Junior does make his departure official we will have a goodbye for that particular player as well.

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@UofLSheriff50. Louisville native, University of Louisville Business School Grad c/o 2004. Co-Founder of TheCrunchZone.com

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