The University of South Florida football program was on a steady rise when Cape Coral High graduate Nate Allen arrived on campus in 2006.
Allen, though, had a clear goal to help the Bulls continue to grow and achieve a greater level of recognition and respect.
He's pleased with the experience, so far.
In his first three years, Allen (a 6-foot-2, 206-pound safety) has played in some of the most thrilling games in school history. The Bulls have gone to three straight bowl games, and even rose to No. 2 in the AP Poll in 2007.
"I'm glad I made the decision to come here," Allen said via telephone Wednesday. "It's been great to be part of the tradition and help make history."
There is more to come for Allen, who is gearing up for his senior season.
USF begins camp Aug. 3. The Bulls open the 2009 regular season Sept. 5 when they host Wofford at Raymond James Stadium.
Allen, a 2006 graduate of Cape High, has been taking part in a Youth Impact Program this week on the USF campus. The non-traditional football camp intertwines football, academics and life skills.
Allen, who graduates in December with a degree in communications, has served as a mentor/coach during the youth program.
Allen and his USF teammates are keeping up with the details on injured starting kicker Maikon Bonani. Bonani fell an estimated 35 feet while working on the Skyride at Busch Gardens last Saturday.
Bonani underwent surgery, but the injuries are not life threatening. It's unclear if and when he will return to the team.
In USF's wild 37-34 win over Kansas last season, Bonani kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal. It was set up by Allen's interception and 40-yard return.
"Thank God he's all right," Allen said.
The USF program is dealing with the tragic loss of former player Will Bleakley, who was lost at sea during a fishing trip in February.
Bleakley, a tight end with the Bulls, finished his career in 2006, Allen's freshman season.
"It's still hard to believe," Allen said. "It's brought us a little closer together. We realize what we have here is special."
Allen signed with USF after a stellar career at Cape where he played quarterback as well as defensive back, passing for more than 5,000 career years.
After playing primarily as a situational defensive back and special teams player during his freshman year at USF, Allen had a breakout sophomore season.
In the Bulls' 26-23 overtime win over Auburn, Allen had a major impact with seven tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He finished his sophomore season with 76 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two touchdowns.
That led to Allen being named to the Jim Thorpe Award Preseason Watch List prior to his junior year. He figures to be a candidate for the award given to the nation's top defensive back, again, this season.
Allen now benefits from the experience of starting 25 games the past two seasons. He'll be counted on for his knowledge to organize the other players in the secondary, along with his playmaking ability.
Allen said his main goal is a team goal - to win the Big East Conference title.
The Bulls haven't accomplished that despite winning at least eight games in each of the past three seasons.
"Our goal every year is to win the Big East and make a BCS game," Allen said. "I'll do whatever I have to do to help the team achieve that."