A Lasting Legacy: senior Aggies lay foundation for future success

Utah State’s 15 seniors on the roster have no National Championship to show for their careers. They have no Western Athletic Conference titles to their credit, nor do they hold the distinction of being able to claim a winning season or bowl appearance during their stay in Logan. But when they take to the field on Friday night against Boise State in their final home game, the 15 seniors on Utah State’s roster will do so with the hope that they have begun to change the culture of a program on the brink of a renaissance. “They are laying the foundation,” says first-year Utah State head coach Gary Andersen. “They have started it with their work ethic. >From the commitment that they made as a football team to have everyone here over the summer, to their belief week in and week out that they can play at a high level and play with anybody on our schedule. I believe that it is a foundation we can build upon.”It’s no secret that Utah State hasn’t exactly been challenging for national supremacy over the past decade, suffering four straight losing seasons under former coach Brent Guy before the arrival of Andersen prior to this season. And while they will ultimately depart Utah State with a losing record over the course of their careers, Utah State’s seniors echo Andersen’s sentiments, saying that the legacy of building a foundation is one which they have embraced and ultimately hope to be remembered. “The one legacy that I want to make sure we as a class leave is something that we’ve been able to instill so far this year, and that’s that we’re not going to give up, ever,” says linebacker Adrian Bybee, who also serves as a member of Utah State’s Student-Athlete Mentors (SAMs) program. “It doesn’t matter if we’re down by three or up by three or down by 20. We are going to fight and teams are going to get our best effort all the way through.”Fighting and competing have been consistent themes for the 2009 Aggies, in particular for the seniors who make up the roster. While it hasn’t always shown in the standings, Utah State has remained competitive in each game this season, and given several highly respected teams a run for their money. Not only have the Aggie faithful taken notice of the team’s fighting spirit in near-misses against teams like Texas A&M, Nevada and Fresno State, but opponents have learned to fear the Aggies as well. The effort and ‘can-do’ attitude is something wide receiver Omar Sawyer says will both help to distinguish this year’s senior class, as well as become a part of future USU teams. “As we go out, we want to set the foundation that we aren’t going to lose and we aren’t going to be just the ‘same old’ Utah State,” explains Sawyer, a native of Ogden, Utah, and a second-generation Aggie football player. “We want to be better and compete. Our goal for this year was to compete for a bowl game, and even though we’ve fallen short, we still want to instill that into the younger guys. To not settle for anything less than they deserve.”Defensive co-captain James Brindley, who came to Utah State via Grass Valley, Calif., adds, “I just want our seniors to be looked at as the seniors who brought the leadership to the team which turned this program around.”It hasn’t been all doom and gloom on the field for Utah State’s seniors, however, who have experienced many highs and personal accomplishments on the field over the last four years. All say they’ve cherished their moments of glory, including defensive tackle Alan Bishop, who still proudly recalls his favorite play of the 2007 season.”My best on field memory was my sophomore year at New Mexico State,” begins Bishop, high eyes lighting up when recalling the memory. “I got an interception – the first and only interception of my career – and as a defensive tackle those are few and far between, so it was pretty fun.”Brindley, too, has fond memories from his career. A high-impact defender who has long been recognized as one of the best defensive backs in the WAC, he can’t help but smile when recalling his first career interception.”My first interception was against Utah, and it was like a blizzard outside. I returned it 60 yards to about the one-yard line. I still get stuff for that, being tackled on the one-yard line,” he says, laughing.Through good times and bad, frustration and hope, heartbreaking endings and new beginnings, one thing has remained constant for Utah State’s seniors – each other. Despite having only been acquainted with this current group of seniors since last January, Andersen has taken notice of their remarkable closeness, and maintains that the group has been exceptional in setting the tone for the rest of the team.”They have a special relationship. Things haven’t gone the way that we wanted to a lot of the year, and we’ve had some good times and some bad times, but they are very, very close, like family,” said Andersen.”They are a great group of kids with good leadership skills and I am very proud of them as a whole,” he adds.Center Brennan McFadden, who was named second team all-WAC in 2008 and is considered a potential pro prospect, says that the friendships built with his fellow seniors have been among the best aspects of his college experience.”These are probably the best relationships I’ve ever made in my life,” says McFadden, who like Brindley, hails from Grass Valley, Calif. “These guys have been here since the beginning with me, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. They’re friendships that will last a lifetime, and I can’t believe it’s coming to an end. But I’ve had great memories and I’m thankful for the time I’ve had here.”Sawyer, likewise, feels that the relationships built between teammates have been instrumental in helping the seniors maintain their composure, both on and off the field, through the past four seasons.”These are my brothers,” explains the 5-foot-9 receiver. “I’ve been here with all of these guys for four, five years in some cases. Our relationships are good, we can talk to each other about anything, and come to each other about anything. I’ve been here with them forever and they are my boys. They’ve got me and I’ve got them.”With their time in the Aggie blue and white quickly running out, the 15 seniors on USU’s roster have just one goal remaining – beat Boise State. The Aggies haven’t defeated the nationally ranked Broncos in over a decade, but the rest of the Utah State team can see no better way to send their seniors out than with what would be an upset of historic proportions.”It’s a big game and it’s been starred on my calendar since the start of the season,” says sophomore running back Robert Turbin, who looks forward to carrying on the example set by the seniors, as well as the lessons and work ethic both on and off the field. “It’s important because Coach Andersen always talks about getting the seniors out the right way, and what he means by that is when they leave here, they leave here with their heads held high and with something to remember.””When they leave college, what one thing will they remember most about playing football at Utah State? If we can get a win against Boise State, then that will be the story they can tell when they’re long gone,” says a determined Turbin.They weren’t the class to hoist the WAC title above their heads. They haven’t garnered the national media attention of being ‘BCS Busters,’ nor will they leave as the class to break the run of current losing seasons in Logan. But then again they haven’t had to do those things, because the 2009 Utah State Aggie seniors have firmly set in motion the gears of change, and laid the foundation for what truly appears to be a renaissance in the Utah State University football program. And through it all, they’ve grown as men and leaders and discovered that the bonds built among teammates will last a lifetime.”We’ve been through thick and thin, we’ve seen some rough times, and we’ve had some great times,” reflects Bybee. “Just being able to see that, and to know that each and every one of us seniors know where we all come from and provide support for each other and have each others back, that in and of itself has been the greatest thing.”-USU-

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