YSU shows military appreciation


By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Putting on the Penguin jersey is an honor for any member of Youngstown State’s football team, but there was a little something extra going on Saturday.

YSU’s 38-10 win against Missouri State didn’t just mark the team’s regular-season finale or the team’s Senior Day, it was also Military Appreciation Day.

The players wore jerseys with camouflage numbers and an American Flag strip down the middle of the helmet.

Some had unique names on the backs of their jerseys. The names were picked by people who bid money in an auction to raise funds for the Veterans Resource Center Scholarship through YSU.

According to a website run by the YSU Veterans Advisory Council, the auction raised $26,629.68 for student veterans.

“It means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to the team,” head coach Bo Pelini said. “If you know me and you know my team, we usually carry out the [American] flag [before games].

“In this day and age and this climate for society, it’s a breath of fresh air and we showed that we support what’s going on and what that flag stands for and what these guys fight for,” Pelini said.

Eighty jerseys had custom names dispersed amongst the team. Senior left tackle Justin Spencer wore “CMS Spencer” for his father, Command Sergeant Major Gene Spencer.

“It meant a lot to me and I’m assuming it does for him,” Spencer said. “It meant the world to go out there for my senior game with his name on the back.”

Some of the other players who honored family members in the service include linebacker Armand Dellovade, kick returner Jake Coates and kicker Zak Kennedy.

For reserve linebacker Johnathan Pollock, the plan was to have his jersey honor his father — a navy veteran — only a stranger swooped in with a bid on the redshirt freshman’s No. 54. The winning bidder was a family member of a serviceman who had died.

“They were originally from Florida like I am and it was just really cool to see that,” Pollock said. “I know the odds were really slim.”

CAMEO APPEARANCE

Lasander Washington, a sprinter on YSU’s track team, returned his first career kickoff on Saturday. He caught the ball in the end zone and despite some signals to take a knee from his teammates, he took off. He was brought down at YSU’s 25.

A NOSTALGIC PENALTY

If Ricky Davis never scores another touchdown for the Penguins, his last one will be very similar to his first. On Saturday, the senior quarterback ran for a 10-yard touchdown during the final minute of the fourth quarter, spiking the football to earn a 15-yard penalty. Davis picked up a personal foul on his first touchdown during his sophomore season for doing a front flip into the endzone, earning an earful from Pelini at the time. Now, he’s not in as much trouble.

“He kind of smirked and I knew I was kind of off the hook. [offensive coordinator Shane Montgomery] was the one who was really upset,” Davis said. “To be honest, I was trying to avoid Bo when I ran to the sideline.”

Davis will graduate in December. He’s moving to Texas to become a medical equipment salesman. His football journey involved injuries, QB battles and a stint at wide receiver. He offered some advice for incoming players.

“Just put others before yourself and just keep pushing. I could have given up multiple times and I stuck with it and it’s something that I’m so thankful that I did,” Davis said. “As far as for a freshman coming in, you’re going to find out that this is a great university. People you meet here think this place is great and soon you find out why, it’s the people. I’m going to miss Youngstown dearly.

“I’m going to leave here in a month and it’s going to be emotional.”

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