Former USF Bulls star Kayvon Webster called his rookie season in the NFL a "story book" one. He's on a team that is just one win away from the Super Bowl and has played a key role on the Denver Broncos' defense.
Just a year ago, Webster was getting ready for the NFL draft. Now, he's preparing to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game this Sunday.
"I'm thankful to be in the position I'm in- to be able contribute to a winning team as much as I have," he said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "I really haven't won that much since I was in college so this is just a whole new feeling that's coming over."
As a USF Bull, Webster endured a 3-9 season as a senior and a 5-7 year in 2012. He's never been on a team as good as the one he's on now and called his pro football experience a "blessing in disguise".
Webster intercepted his first pass as an NFL player in Week 6 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Webster jumped in front of a Chad Henne pass and fulfilled a childhood dream.
"I hadn't gotten an interception my whole senior season," he said. "It fell into my arms and it was just a good feeling to be able to contribute to the Denver Broncos. Not everyone gets a chance to go to the NFL and play for their favorite team and have their favorite player growing up on their team, so it's just been a humbling and thankful experience for me."
"I thank God everyday for the opportunity to go out there and showcase my talents, and contribute any part to a winning team that's super bowl contenders."
That favorite player he mentioned is All-Pro corner Champ Bailey. Webster grew up watching Champ and cheering for the Broncos after watching John Elway lead Denver to a Super Bowl win over the Atlanta Falcons in the mid-90s.
Now, after intercepting that first pro pass, he's forever a part of the organization that he cheered for as a kid.
"I've got the ball in my house," said Webster. "I've got the ball painted. That was just the first one of many for me."
The 2013 season hasn't been all roses for Webster, who fractured his right thumb in a game. It required surgery - six screws, five pins and nine stitches later he returned to action with a cast on his hand. He earned his teammates' respect by fighting through the pain to get back on the field.
"I can't let that be an excuse. I don't even look at it as if I have a cast on my hand. I know I have a cast and I've got four other fingers so I try to not think about the cast as much," he said. "I just go out there and try to do my job to the best of my ability without making an excuse for my injury. That just shows your toughness and how committed you are to want to play, and get back in and enjoy the game with your team."
He will have a tough task this weekend. The Patriots beat the Broncos 34-31 in overtime in Week 12. That game was in New England. Now, Denver hosts the Patriots and their future Hall of Fame quarterback with a Super Bowl trip on the line.
"Tom Brady is obviously one of the elite quarterbacks in this league along with Peyton (Manning) and Aaron Rodgers and a number of other guys," said Webster. "He makes those throws that are needed for his team to win and he's just an all around competitor."
REMEMBERING WHERE HE STARTED
Webster graduated after USF's disappointing 2012 season. Skip Holtz lost his job and the Bulls hired Willie Taggart to fix the sliding program. Webster spoke to Taggart twice during the 2013 USF season. The Bulls finished 2-10 in Taggart's first year in Tampa, but that wasn't a concern for Kayvon.
"We've got to give him time to get his recruits in and probably change the program to the direction he feels comfortable with," he said. "He struggled this year. The players, we kind of watch that and, you know, you feel bad for any senior class that goes out on a losing (2-10) record. It just hurts to see those guys go out there and lose like that when you know all of the hard work they put in. Deep down inside you know they want to win.
"I wish Willie Taggart the best of luck with the program. I hope he turns it around."
Webster said he's trying to get his younger brother to go play for Taggart at USF. Better recruiting will help the Bulls get back to consistently playing in bowl games they way they were when Kayvon first arrived.
"I wouldn't even say he's slipping," Webster said of Taggart. "I don't think he fully knew what he was getting as far as players and, you know, it takes time to develop a program. It's not just wham once you get a new coach. We all knew that as a senior class and he probably knew that coming into the job knowing it wasn't going to be easy to win."