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USF's Selvie morphs from O-Line to hard-hitting DE

Posted: Wednesday October 17, 2007 2:45PM; Updated: Wednesday October 17, 2007 2:45PM
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George Selvie
In just his second season ever on the defensive side of the ball, George Selvie has become one of the nation's top pass rushers.
Bob Rosato/SI
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USF coach Jim Leavitt's craggy and he's crabby. He's not into sound bites and he's not into smiling pretty. And George Selvie says it's all fake. "Coach is really a good guy," Selvie swore. "He's fun -- really."

Yeah, well, Leavitt's the guy that told Selvie quarterbacks are yummy. Obviously the kid's going to think he's fun. Three years ago, Selvie was a 6-foot-4, 215-pound center. His high school coach in Pensacola, Fla., had tried to make him a quarterback, or even a receiver. But Selvie had insisted on playing offensive line, and when Leavitt came to see him, the one-time defensive back and defensive coordinator saw ... a center.

"I thought he'd be a good center," Leavitt said, refusing to even jokingly brag about the foresight he had, or the genius he is. Because, see, last year Leavitt needed a defensive end, he threw Selvie there and today, Selvie is the country's biggest quarterback-chomper. The sophomore has 11.5 sacks, another eight hurries, and last week he was in Central Florida's backfield, stripping the quarterback -- on a handoff.

Selvie and South Florida, the biggest surprise in a wild season, are No. 2 in the nation and come storming into Piscataway, N.J., to take on Rutgers Thursday night. The Scarlet Knights have one of the least-sacked quarterbacks in football and if Leavitt really gets to make a truth-teller out of Selvie, it'll probably be because Selvie got his coach to smile.

"I can make Coach smile. Because he's right," Selvie said with a laugh. "Hitting the quarterback is fun."

It wasn't always that way for this "Yes, Sir" son of a Navy man. Selvie was taught to protect first; from the time he was a kid ("I was a chubby little boy," he said), he played offensive line. His dad wanted him to play basketball, but he didn't like shooting baskets. His friends wanted him to play running back, but he didn't like scoring touchdowns. As center he got to touch the ball first and that's all the glory Selvie ever wanted.

"On offensive line, I got to block somebody and hit somebody in the mouth on every play," he said. "When you're the running back, you have to take hits. On offensive line, you get to give hits."

Selvie never thought about dishing out hits on defense, though. He might've gotten a scholarship to at least one other school besides South Florida if he had. But he didn't. So he went to Tampa and on the first day of practice, when Leavitt was lean at end and deep at center, he amiably switched his jersey, thinking the whole time, "he'll move me back to offensive line."

Leavitt did, midway through that redshirt year. But then in the spring Selvie was back on defense, he muttered at the coach "this is going to be the last time" and it has been. For now at least.

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