Coming out of Hillsborough HS Leslie Stirrups, was the most highly touted recruit of USF's 2006 class, and big thing were expected from the All-Star prospect, but he failed to qualify academically and had to go the JUCO route, and is now very close to coming full circle.
"Things are going great," said Stirrups. "We just finished a real good season, and I'm that much closer to coming home."
In 2005 the former 4-star DT Stirrups was one of the most dominating players at his position finishing his senior season at Hillsborough with 67 tackles, 4 sacks, and 6 tackles for losses, and had offers from all over including Florida, Miami, & FSU before choosing to play for USF.
Stirrups left the state of Florida to play JUCO ball at Pearl River in Mississippi alongside current Bulls Craig Marshall, Kion Wilson, and Theo Wilson. Stirrups had a very productive freshman season, finishing with 30 tackles, 6.5 TFL's, 1.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. But after one season, Stirrups made a move to East Mississippi CC with fellow teammate Claude Davis under new Head coach Buddy Stephens who was previously at Pearl.
"The switch was easy. Nothing was that new to me. The coaches at EMCC were at Pearl last year, and we ran the same defense, so it wasn't anything too different for me."
Once at EMCC Stirrups wowed the coaches with his work ethic in the off-season, and it carried into the season. Leslie recorded 71 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks and a blocked punt, blocked field goal, and many QB pressures. Against Mississippi delta Stirrups was named JUCO defensive player of the week after recording eight total tackles (four solo), including two tackles for loss (-4 yards) and one sack for 4 yards lost, four quarterback knockdowns, three quarterback hurries, one pass breakup and one blocked point-after-touchdown attempt.
"My other defensive linemen were getting all kinds of stuff and I told them before the game that I was going to get mine and dominate, and I just went out and played my game."
Stirrups helped lead the Lions to a 8-1 record and hosted a state football playoff game for the first time in school history against his former team Pearl River where they lost 42-35.
"It was a tough loss but I had a good. I had 9 tackles, and a whole bunch of quarterback hurries. It was a battle and we almost came back when we got the onside kick, but our QB through a pick at the end."
Now the season is done Stirrups has just one priority that he is focused on.
"Right now my immediate plans are to focus on getting these grades, that's first. I got to get my grades so I can finish here. All I'm going to be doing is studying, working out, and running, and getting ready to return to South Florida."
The standout defensive lineman plays the 3-tech, and is in regular contact with Bulls DL Coach John Hendricks, but also talks with Coach Leavitt.
"Coach Leavitt called me because he heard that I was having second doubts. I told Coach Leavitt, on day one when you offered me that scholarship, and told me it would be there no matter what. I told you then, that I was going to South Florida no matter who offered me. I I still mean that."
Many major schools offered him out of high school and many still contact his coach, but Stirrups said that doesn't matter to him.
"Out of high school I had a lot of big offers but I turned them down for South Florida and that's not going to change now. Schools and scouts have approached me and my coach, but I told them and my coach tells them, I'm going to South Florida, so don't even bother."
Stirrups said he follows the Bulls on a regular basis and keeps in contact with Craig Marshall and is excited for what the team can do next season. Stirrups also said that being away helped him change as a player and as a man.
"Where I've changed the most is my mentality, and my maturity. I changed a whole lot since high school. I used to hang with a bad crowd, the wrong people and doing this and that. Now I made a whole turn around and just work on my football and my grades and see the light."
Strirups will have two years of eligibility, but when should Bulls fans expect him to arrive on campus?
"I've just been working hard getting everything done that I need to. I got 51 credits total, and I need 64 to graduate, so I'll be done in May, and finally be back in Tampa. I'm so excited to return to South Florida, and can't wait to see what we can do."
Stay tuned with USFNation.com, as we keep you updated on Leslie as he finishes up his AA degree