In a season that’s had more ups and downs than a day at the amusement park, FIU rebounded from an embarrassing road loss to close out their final on-campus home game with a win.
While it wasn’t their best performance, the emotions of closing out with a win for the senior class were on full display postgame.
If Napoleon Maxwell had to title his FIU Panther career, he might choose the phrase, “Trials and Tribulations”.
The 6-0, 210-pound running back had 16 carries for 83 yards and a TD in his final home game after six years with the program. He was part of the 2014 recruiting class that included standouts like Alex McGough, Anthony Wint, and Alex Gardner.
However, the St. Petersburg native would miss 2015 and 2016 with consecutive torn ACL injuries. Following Saturday’s game, Maxwell reflected on his journey to senior day.
“Nobody thinks they’re going to be at a university for six years. There were definitely times I wanted to give it up. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the support of the people in this building,” said Maxwell.
When asked exactly how close he came to returning to the Tampa Bay Area, he offered the following.
“When I found out I tore it (ACL) the second time, I was like - that was the point I wanted to give it up. The coaches had to call me to come in for treatment, there were days I didn’t even want to get out of the bed, maybe even get kicked off the team. But I just fought through it with the help of these guys,” said Maxwell.
During his rehab, he reached out to former South Carolina All-American Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a career-ending ACL injury during his collegiate career.
“A lot of people don’t know, but I reached out to Marcus Lattimore. I was kind of nervous at first, but I just emailed him and he responded. Told me he likes my game and to keep fighting. That meant a lot,” Maxwell said.
Olin Cushion III
When you ask around the FIU football program about who’s one of the toughest players, a name that you’re bound the hear is safety Olin Cushion III. Pound-for-pound, Cushion may be one of the toughest in the nation.
Throughout his Panther career, the 5-7, 175-pound Miami native has worked his way into a two-year starter in the secondary. Cushion III talked about how emotional the day was and hiding from the officials to remain in the game.
“It didn’t hit me till I gave my mom the roses pregame. That’s when I started feeling it and then everybody coming up and saying how much they loved me. The tears started flowing after that, so I had to get my mind ready to rock and I’m glad we closed it out with a win,” said Cushion.
With ODU attempting a game-tying drive on the final possession of the game, Cushion hauled in an errant Hayden Wolff pass to seal the victory. According to Cushion, the play almost didn’t happen.
“I was bleeding from my arm and I was trying to hide it from the ref. Dorian Hall tried to come over and take this side of the field, I had to tell him no, that he can’t take this side so the ref doesn’t see me. Then the play happens and I just slid underneath the ball when it came to my side,” Cushion III said.
Two weeks shy of his 68th birthday, Butch Davis has spent a lifetime coaching players at the high school, collegiate and professional levels. However, between his two stops at the University of Miami and now at FIU, the lion’s share of his time has been developing players in South Florida.
Following the win, he spoke about how emotional the day is for him as a coach.
“Believe it or not, I’m a weepy guy sometimes. Watching Olin and those guys - when the seniors went out and lined up with their families, it gets really emotional for me as a coach.”
He emphasized the bond with the players that’s created behind the scenes.
“We spend so much time together and we go through tough times. The behind the scenes issues that you guys don’t see - Shaq Williams lost a family member two weeks ago, Dorian Hall lost a family two nights ago. You really fall in love with these kids, seeing everything they go through. I get choked up because all I hope is they get an education, enjoy their time here and this family environment makes a difference in their lives,” said Davis before ending his portion of the press conference.
- Receiver Maurice Alexander was carted off the field in the fourth quarter. While no official word has been given, I’m being told that his season could be over.
- Anthony Jones was kicked in the calf in the first quarter of the game, which resulted in Maxwell taking the bulk of the later carries.