By Michelle Lewis
The Louisville Cardinals are headed to their fourth straight bowl game. Four years ago this seemed an impossible feat as the program had gone from winning the Orange Bowl to three straight losing seasons. The 2013 senior class agreed to come to U of L despite the shambles the program was in at that time. In their first season they accomplished the impossible goal Coach Strong and his staff charged them with. They got that year’s seniors to a bowl game then went out and won the Beef of Brady’s Bowl giving the Cards their first winning season since the 2006 Orange Bowl team.
The Cards celebrated senior day Nov. 23 when they hosted Memphis and did something that despite the three straight bowl games, including last year’s Sugar Bowl championship, that hadn’t been done in any of their first three seasons as Cardinals. They won on senior day defeating Memphis 24-17.
The players in this senior class have thrived off the field as well while growing from boys to men and learning how to persevere through rough times as well as appreciate the good times.
“Louisville wasn’t just trying to get me to play ball, they also wanted to mold me from a boy to a man and they wanted me to graduate as well,” senior fullback BJ Butler said. As for what lesson he’ll most take away from his journey from recruit to alumni Butler said, “To take advantage of every opportunity you have and learn how to deal with adversity.”
There were, of course, some great memories both as a football player and as a student as well.
“On the field I’d have to say the Sugar Bowl when I got my first catch of my career and almost scored” Butler reminisced. Off the field Butler enjoyed doing scenes in his acting class and one of his favorite memories was “when we won the national championship”.
Another memory and favorite project of Butler’s was from his online journalism class he took last summer. He had never been to the zoo and when his group was picking what to do their final video project on his partners insisted on the Louisville Zoo when they learned this.
He quickly showed his love for Louisville when the zoo’s Media Relations Director Kyle Shepherd lead them to the golf cart she was going to drive them around in saying, “I’m allergic to that color” when he spotted the blue seats in the cart. When asked what his favorite parts of the zoo were he listed the lions, the silverback gorillas, and the wooly monkeys as well as the whole experience of the project with his group.
Other members of this class have grown and excelled as well. One notable senior who has matured from a boy to a man is a standout from the defensive line, Brandon Dunn.
“He was walking through the hall in the football complex a couple weeks ago and walked past offensive line Coach Dave Borbely sitting at his desk. Dave stopped him and asked him ‘Brandon, what do you want to do when you leave here?’ Brandon said, ‘I want to be a leader of men’ and that really shows a lot. He came here talented but a bit shy and lacking confidence but has really grown into a leader on this team and that confidence is why he’ll get a shot at the next level,” Defensive Line Coach Clint Hurtt recalled.
This year’s seniors will be missed for a lot of reasons but will always have a special place in the hearts of Louisville players and fans as well as their teammates. All Louisville fans owe this class a debt of gratitude for coming to U of L when the program was at such a low point and helping turn it back into a nationally respected team.