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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Selvie tries new perspective
Being flexible comes easily to the Bulls' redshirt freshman, and a move to defense is fine.
By GREG AUMAN
Published September 13, 2006
TAMPA - In just two games, USF defensive end George Selvie has quickly made a name for himself with a knack for getting into opposing backfields.
The redshirt freshman is tied for third in the nation with 5.5 tackles for loss, but what's impressive is that he's more familiar with protecting quarterbacks. He's just starting to get a feel for harassing them.
"I didn't play defense until my senior year. We needed help on defense," said Selvie, whose position at Pensacola's Pine Forest High was center.
The shift to defense worked, as Selvie racked up 55 tackles and six sacks, all while starting at center. West Virginia liked him as an offensive lineman but didn't offer him a scholarship, worried he couldn't pack enough weight onto his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame.
He took visits to LSU and Florida and watched as one of his best friends, fellow lineman Mike Johnson, got a full ride to Alabama. In the end, USF was the only Division I-A program that offered Selvie a scholarship, in there with smaller schools such as Delta State and North Alabama.
"I appreciated them for doing that," said Selvie, who has put on 30 pounds since signing with the Bulls. "I can still put on more weight, but I'll wait until the offseason, so I can keep moving around like I'm moving right now."
Selvie was moving around plenty Saturday in USF's 21-20 victory against Florida International, with a team-high nine tackles, five for a loss, including two sacks. Defensive end might be USF's least experienced position, but Selvie's play has been a bright spot, even if it's a work in progress.
"I'm still trying to learn all the fundamentals and hand movements," he said. "It's exciting, getting used to a different position and doing something new."
In December, with USF unsure of its future at center, the Bulls tried Selvie there for a week as they prepared for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. In the end, coach Jim Leavitt decided to keep Selvie on defense, going with junior Nick Capogna at center, a move that has worked well on both sides.
"He was a tremendous center, and we were going to play him at center here," Leavitt said. "He would have done a tremendous job, and I'm not saying he won't play center someday. He's such a hard worker."
USF's defensive players are glad to have him on their side of the ball. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas said he lobbied a bit to get Selvie there, even if he was less familiar with defensive end.
"I'd see him over there, snapping the ball, and I'd tell him every now and then he needed to be on this side of the ball," Nicholas said. "He's been a great help to this defense. He goes on all eight cylinders. There's no stopping him."
That Selvie could step into an unfamiliar place and adapt so well doesn't surprise his father, George, who retired in 2004 after 20 years in the U.S. Navy. Military life took the Selvie family from Mississippi to two stops in Florida, on to Virginia and back to Pensacola.
"Every four years, we were transferring and he was making new friends fast," said the elder Selvie, himself a three-sport star in high school in Columbus, Miss. "Adjusting was nothing new for him to do. People say he's quiet, but he's only that way for the first month, and then you won't be able to shut him up."
Leavitt, too, has noticed Selvie as the quiet type, but he shakes that off, saying being reserved is one way he stays humble on the field. Get him started about the new season of Nip/Tuck or about watching Flavor of Love on VH1, and he has plenty to talk about.
"I don't really talk unless I'm spoken to, unless I have something to say," said Selvie, citing his father's influence.
And after just two games with the Bulls, his actions are speaking volumes by themselves.