John Denton's Knights Insider: Rock Garden Created for Past, Future

GO KNIGHTS Kevin Smith will be one of the Knights honored in the new rock garden in front of Bright House Networks Stadium.
Kevin Smith will be one of the Knights honored in the new rock garden in front of Bright House Networks Stadium.

Oct. 19, 2010


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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - When UCF fans stroll through the new Knights to Remember Garden leading up to Bright House Networks Stadium on Saturday for the first time, Michael O'Shaughnessy hopes they will both remember the football program's glorious past and also dream big about the future.

By erecting monuments designed to remember what the Knights have accomplished in their first 31 years, the belief is that it will help establish some tradition to a still relatively young program and spark further future growth.

And with the Knights at 4-2 and off to their best start since 1998 heading into Saturday's Homecoming game against Rice, the belief is that UCF's promising program is on the verge of its finest season in school history. The Knights are the favorites to win Conference USA's East Division and advance to their third C-USA title game.

And should the Knights accomplish their goal of winning another conference crown and reaching the fourth bowl game in school history, there is now such a place to honor the 2010 team. O'Shaughnessy, a 1981 UCF graduate and a 2010 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, led the push to build something that would commemorate UCF's heritage and history.

Hence the formation of the Knights to Remember Garden, which will feature 31 stones denoting great players, benefactors and moments in UCF's football history. Finally, O'Shaughnessy said, UCF fans will have a place to gather and celebrate UCF's past while also casting an eye to the future.

``This is going to be a great presentation for people who either already know or don't know about our great lineage at UCF with the football program,'' said O'Shaughnessy, a player on the first UCF football team in 1979. ``It's something that will allow people to cherish the players and moments and leaders who made us what we are today. And it's not just about our past; it's about our future too and showing people that if they get involved and make great contributions to the program what we can do in years to come.''

Hoping to build something to honor UCF's history, O'Shaughnessy dreamed up the idea of the rock garden 3 ½ seasons ago. And who better to do it than O'Shaughnessy, who had 10 sacks on that very first UCF team in 1979. He finished with 22 career sacks and after his playing days he was an assistant coach, founded UCF's Letterman's K Club and was on the board of directors for the Knights Booster Club.

O'Shaughnessy also formed a blue ribbon panel of former players, coaches and administrators who helped author UCF's rise as a football program to what it is today, including the likes of Don Dizney, UCF Board of Trustees chairman Rick Walsh, former Knights Booster Club president Micky Grindstaff, longtime UCF supporter Jerry Roth, former UCF AD Dr. Frank Rohter, current football staff assistant Manny Messeguer, O'Leary and O'Shaughnessy will make up a panel that submits recommendations to the Athletics Department on which past moments and players and future ones are honored with monumental rocks.

``We have a history and a winning history and it's been a passion of mine for years to do something to recognize how far we've come as a football program,'' O'Shaughnessy said. ``We used to have such a local group as a fan base, but I go to games now and I don't recognize too many of the people and that's a good thing. That tells me that we're growing as a fanbase and bringing new people into the fold.''

The inaugural set of rocks will honor 31 of UCF's greatest moments and players. There's a rock honoring UCF All-Americans Daunte Culpepper (1998) and Kevin Smith (2007), and others to signify the first victory against a Southeastern Conference team (Alabama in 2000) and an Atlantic Coast Conference team (NC State in 2007). There's a stone for the inaugural 1979 team, another for the 1990 squad that beat Youngstown State with a last-second field goal for the first playoff victory and a rock honoring the team that was the first to reach the postseason in 1987.

``We want this to be a place where fans can come before the games and reminisce, but also be inspired about the future of the program,'' said O'Shaughnessy. ``This has been built to inspire the fanbase. Not with a nonchalant walk down memory lane, but by realizing that we've had a lot of success and we're going to continue having a lot of great moments. I feel like coach O'Leary really had our program going in the right direction. We're so close to cracking that top 25 and then once we do that we can work on getting up to the top 10.''

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