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USF Bulls

Bulls Beat: Ex-USF LB Kawika Mitchell earns degree

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Published:   |   Updated: May 1, 2014 at 10:57 AM

He holds the University of South Florida career record for tackles. He was a second-round NFL draft pick and played eight seasons in the league. He earned a Super Bowl ring, sacking Tom Brady and helping the New York Giants to a stunning upset of the unbeaten New England Patriots. He played for four NFL teams and once signed a five-year, $17.5 million free-agent contract.

So, what is former Bulls linebacker Kawika Mitchell up to these days?

This weekend marks one of his proudest accomplishments.

Mitchell, 34, has earned his USF degree.

Athletes of all shapes and sizes will participate in graduation exercises at the Sun Dome. Although Mitchell is unable to participate in the ceremony – he owns Competitor Gym in Maitland – he said receiving his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences will set a good example for his two children.

Mitchell took advantage of a degree-completion program overseen byUSF associate athletic director for academics Jason Linders. For his final class, Mitchell returned to the USF campus once each week and enjoyed being back in the classroom.

For Mitchell, who first attended Georgia before his transfer to USF (1999-2002), it was a reaffirmation of a pledge he first heard during the recruiting process. Stick with us, follow the plan and one day you will have a degree, USF coaches said back then.

“That’s what they talk about when they recruit guys and it’s good to see them standing by that,’’ Mitchell said.

BACKS TO THE WALL

Before the season, USF baseball coach Lelo Prado established his goal with a regionals-or-bust outlook for the Bulls. So far, it’s looking like a bust.

The Bulls (24-20), who haven’t made the NCAA regionals since 2002, are sagging after Tuesday night’s 6-5 home loss against North Florida, when USF surrendered a 5-1 lead. There’s great opportunity this weekend when the No. 8-ranked Louisville Cardinals (33-11) – Prado’s former program – visit USF for a three-game series in the American Athletic Conference.

But clearly, the Bulls are running out of time. There are only a few regular-season games left before the AAC tournament, which carries an automatic NCAA regional bid for the champion, May 21-25 at Clearwater’s Bright House Field.

BULLS BITS

Eddie Cardieri, the head baseball coach for 21 seasons (731-546, nine NCAA regional appearances), returned to a USF home game for the first time since 2006 at Friday’s win against Memphis. …The USF women’s and men’s tennis teams will each begin NCAA tournament play in Gainesville. Agustin Moreno’s 31st-ranked women’s team (18-3) faces Oklahoma State (15-8) on May 9. Meanwhile, Matt Hill’s USF men (18-6) open against Florida State on May 10. …Men’s golf sophomore Chase Koepka finished second individually (2-under, five shots behind the leader) during this week’s AAC tournament at Innisbrook. The Bulls were fourth as a team (14-over), finishing behind SMU (6-over), UCF (11-over) and Houston (14-over). The Bulls will learn their NCAA regional site on Monday with play to begin May 15. …For the sixth time this season, softball LHP Sara Nevins was named AAC pitcher of the week after registering two complete games in a sweep of Memphis. Ken Eriksen’s Bulls (36-14) finish the regular season at Temple this weekend before the May 8-10 AAC tournament at Houston.

jjohnston@tampatrib.com

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