St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field will host the 93rd annual East-West Shrine Game on Saturday, January 20th.  The game, which is a partnership with the NFL, features 100 top draft prospects each year.  Last year, 90 East-West Shrine Game players signed contracts with NFL teams.

Four USF players accepted invitations to this year’s game, which ties Wisconsin for the second-most invitees from a school (Penn State had five).  All four will be playing on the East Team, which is being coached by the Cincinnati Bengals’ Johnathan Hayes.  Hayes coaches tight ends for the Bengals, but played eight seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and three with the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Hayes’ team will look for leadership from former USF quarterback, Quinton Flowers.  Flowers will share quarterback duties with Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.  Flowers led the 10th ranked scoring offense in the country at USF, averaging more than 38 points per game.  He passed for more than 2,900 yards and rushed for 1,078, scoring 25 touchdowns through the air and 11 on the ground.  Flowers set 42 records at USF, including most total offense for the program, as well as the American Athletic Conference.  He posted a 21-4 record in his final two seasons for the Bulls and is just the fourth player in FBS history to pass for 8,000 yards and rush for 3,500 yards in a career.  He’s a back-to-back Birmingham Bowl MVP and an all-conference team selection for 2016 and 2017.  After Shrine Game practices, Flowers has been seen interviewing with the Denver Broncos and the Atlanta Falcons.

Flowers is joined by former Bulls’ running back, D’Ernest Johnson.  Johnson was part of the three-headed green and gold rushing attack that ranked 8th in the nation in 2017.  The 5-10, 208 pound running back out of Immokalee rushed for nearly 800 yards on the season, scoring seven touchdowns.  Johnson owns the USF record for all-purpose yards, 4,186, in a career.  Johnson also caught 11 passes for 153 yards in 2017, a point which may be relevant during the Shrine Game.  During practices, Johnson has lined up as a receiver and taken passes from Flowers.  After practice on day two, Johnson met with representatives from the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The East Team defense will feature USF’s Deatrick Nichols at cornerback.  Nichols is a two-time, first team, all-conference selection for the American Athletic Conference.  He was the third ranked Bull in total tackles with 56 in 2017 and ranks third for most interceptions in a career with 11.  Nichols led the team with 12 pass breakups, stealing three interceptions along the way. 

Deadrin Senat will line up at defensive tackle for the East Team on Saturday.  Senat was a first team all-conference selection 2017 and a second team selection 2016.  He was second on the team in total tackles with 66, and had six sacks on the season.  Senat tied the USF record for sacks in a bowl game when he sacked Texas Tech’s quarterbacks three times in the 2017 Birmingham Bowl.  The Buffalo Bills were seen interviewing Senat after day three practices.

Supporting those four former Bulls is a good reason to attend Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game.  An even better reason is the cause.  More than 1.3 million children have been helped by Shriners Hospitals, the beneficiary of the game.  Tickets and more information can be found at  There will be a pre-game party at 11:00 AM at Tropicana Field.  The game will begin at 3:07 PM.  The NFL Network will broadcast the game where available.  

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