Baylor University

Seniors: Finishing Strong

Dec. 29, 2010

Seniors

For more years than most Baylor fans would care to admit, senior classes have begun the year by proclaiming that "This is the year!" - the year that Baylor football would return to the postseason.

Undaunted by the past, the Class of 2010 fulfilled their promise; Baylor is headed to a bowl this winter for the first time since 1994.

"It's exciting, encouraging and humbling," says senior cornerback Clifton Odom. "The guys who have been here have been talking about it a lot lately, how we've been here three, four, five years and seen this program change. It's nothing but exciting to see where this program is at and where's it's a going, and it's a blessing to be a part of it."

In addition to breaking the bowl drought, this year's seniors have notched plenty of other firsts and "not since" achievements:

• First seven-win season since 1995;

• Longest conference winning streak since 1992;

• Ranked in the AP poll in consecutive weeks for first time since 1991; and

• More conference wins than any other Baylor team in the Big 12 era.

"We expected [this success], because we worked hard all summer," says senior defensive lineman Phil Taylor. "It feels great. We told ourselves we had to leave an impression for the freshmen [before graduating]."

In addition to setting that foundation for the classes yet to come, this year's seniors almost to a man expressed some sadness that their former teammates who have already moved on didn't get to experience the same success.

After becoming bowl eligible, "the first guys I thought of were J.D. Walton and James Barnard," says senior offensive lineman Danny Watkins. "It was kind of sad that they couldn't be there to be a part of it with us."

"I definitely feel blessed; a lot of great guys have come through here but just come up short," echoed senior safety Tim Atchison. "I've seen some guys go out like that, and it always hurts seeing that, because you know how much these guys put into it. To actually be a part of the team that's making the difference and has the opportunity to play for so much means a lot."

"The guys from a couple of years before, they just missed it, but without those guys coming through here before us, showing us how to be leaders and setting a good example for the rest of the program, we wouldn't have been able to take this team to where it is today," adds senior punter Derek Epperson. "We're so lucky to have had guys like Joe [Pawelek], Jordan [Lake] and [Jason] Lamb come through the program, because they set a good precedent for us. We just picked up where they left off, and luckily, it's paid off for us this year."

Head coach Art Briles attributes this year's success to more than just luck; he says the seniors' passion, energy and hunger helped set the tone.

"They're the type of people you like to be around," he explains. "If somebody feels like they're full and satisfied, you don't need to be hanging out with them. Our guys, they're hungry. They've done a great job of leading in the proper direction."

The 18 seniors on this year's squad have set a trajectory that leads not only to the success indicated by a postseason appearance, but to a bright future. As they move on into the ranks of professional football, graduate school or the business world, they leave a legacy of success that will be envied by many who went before them -- and will hopefully be topped by those who follow in their footsteps.

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