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The former Crystal River star is adjusting to the higher intensity and tougher competition at the college level.
By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 7, 2003
CRYSTAL RIVER -- During his recent holiday break, Will Bleakley watched football on television, worked out and relaxed.
It was a nice change of pace for the 2002 Crystal River graduate, who had a whirlwind first semester at the University of South Florida.
Bleakley especially enjoyed seeing Florida and Michigan square off in the Outback Bowl because it was at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Bulls.
The former All-Suncoast tight end was a redshirt freshman walk-on for USF. As such, Bleakley did everything with the team except travel and dress for games.
Bleakley, who went back to the Tampa campus Sunday, said the team was disappointed in not going to a bowl despite a 9-2 record, but made it something to strive for next year. He is glad coach Jim Leavitt, whom Bleakley described as entertaining, recently signed a five-year contract.
"He makes it fun yet is still serious enough where you can get stuff done," Bleakley said. "Every day in practice coach Leavitt would try and inspire everybody, wrestling people and pushing people."
As for his own future with the team, Bleakley is optimistic after conversations with offensive coordinator/tight ends coach Mike Hobbie.
"He said it's all up to me," Bleakley said. "If I want to gain weight and work hard, I have a chance at playing.
"Not really starting, but a chance of playing and making an effort to help out the team. The strength coach also told me to eat 4-5 times a day, bigger meals than I have been for the past 4-5 years," Bleakley said.
Bleakley said the Bulls weight train four days a week and run three days a week during the offseason. Although Bleakley was a straight-A student in high school, there were the usual adjustments to college academia.
"The first couple of weeks I was just so tired from playing football, it makes it that much harder," said Bleakley, who is undecided on his major, but hopes to go into engineering.
"Classes weren't so much harder than high school, but you did have to pay attention."
The former Pirates star also had to get used to not being the one of the key players on the field. As a senior, Bleakley had 15 receptions for 247 yards and 6 touchdown catches at tight end and was the team's kicker.
On defense, he was credited with eight sacks among his 101 tackles.
There was also the jump in intensity level from high school to college practices.
"It's a much different atmosphere," Bleakley said. "It's more serious, everything you do is looked upon. It's more businesslike."
Although he was keeping busy, Bleakley followed his old Pirates, and attended two games.
Bleakley, who helped Crystal River to a 10-2 record his senior season, had this advice for the Pirates: "Just work hard, that's all my class did and that's why we were good."
Bleakley has found that holds true at the next level. Hobbie says the same thing to the Bulls.
"It matters who works the hardest and who wants it the most is what he said," Bleakley said.
-- Kristen Leigh Porter can be reached at email@example.com or 564-3628.