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USF community mourns Selmon

Posted Sep 5, 2011 by Adam Adkins

Updated Sep 5, 2011 at 12:50 AM

One day after celebrating one of the biggest wins in its football program’s history, the USF community was mourning the loss of a man who played a key role in making it possible.

Lee Roy Selmon, whose notable achievements included paying a vital role in bringing football to USF, died Sunday, two days after suffering a stroke. He was 56.

“The University of South Florida is absolutely devastated by the news of the passing of Lee Roy Selmon, and we want to extend our deepest sympathy to his family,” USF president Judy Genshaft said Sunday evening. “We all felt close to Lee Roy and we’re all grieving at this time.

“It’s a loss for the university and a loss for the entire Tampa Bay community.”

Those at USF who spoke Sunday evening about Selmon, who in addition to help starting the football program served as university’s director of athletics from 2001 to 2004 and was serving as the president of the USF Foundation at the time of his death, remembered a first-class individual, one who touched each of their lives.

“Lee Roy Selmon not only stands for everything that is right about football, but he stands for everything that’s right in life,” USF director of athletics Doug Woolard said. “I’ve never been around a guy with any more class and any more integrity ever than Lee Roy Selmon.”

Both Woolard, who succeeded Selmon as the USF’s director of athletics, and USF football coach Skip Holtz said Selmon was a big reason they chose to come to the university. Both talked about the impact Selmon had on the university’s student-athletes, which is certainly a big part of his legacy.

“There are not very many people who can make an impact on the student-athletes the way Lee Roy has,” said Holtz, who added he was grateful to have known Selmon and called him “a special man.” Holtz broke the news of Selmon’s death to his team Sunday evening, and said, “There are tears in that room with our players.”

USF senior safety Jerrell Young called Selmon “the most genuine man I’ve ever met.” He added that while he and Selmon, a former Tampa Bay Bucs standout and Pro Football Hall of Famer, shared the obvious football bond, the topics of conversation often were on a more personal level.

“He’d come on the field and talk about my family, how my mom’s doing, how my dad’s doing,” Young said. “It’s a tragedy. I still can’t believe it’s happened. He was just at practice Wednesday.”

USF’s players and coaches wore No.63 decals during Saturday’s season-opening 23-20 win at No.16 Notre Dame to pay tribute to Selmon, who was planning to attend the game before suffering the stroke Friday at his home in Tampa. Genshaft said USF will honor Selmon but added she wanted to first consult with the family before announcing what was planned.

Because USF played this weekend, no one who spoke Sunday evening was able to visit Selmon in the hospital. Both Genshaft and Woolard, who attended the game in South Bend, Ind., said they planned to do so upon returning to Tampa and were trying to contact members of Selmon’s family to ask for permission. “Unfortunately,” Genshaft said, “it was too late.”

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