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September 18, 2007Through the first two games of the 2007 season, it's a somewhat unlikely name atop USF's defensive statistics. Despite the presence of proven triple-digit tacklers Ben Moffitt and Tyrone McKenzie, it's Brouce Mompremier who leads the way with 20 stops, including 13 solos.
The junior linebacker has passed his early test and helped answer the question of whether or not the Bulls defense would be able to maintain a high level of productivity following the departures of standouts Stephen Nicholas and Patrick St. Louis. Mompremier's play has also prompted some high praise from head coach Jim Leavitt.
"I have been as impressed with Brouce as I have been with any player on our team," Leavitt said following the Bulls' thrilling overtime win at Auburn.
But that wasn't always the case.
Mompremier nearly derailed his own USF career after only a few weeks on campus. Not long after enrolling in the summer of 2004, he was implicated along with fellow freshmen Josh Julmiste and C.J. Hunnicutt in the theft of nearly $4,000 in property from the dorm room of former teammate Randy Jackson.
Eventually, the state attorney's office decided not to pursue criminal charges, but the three were immediately suspended from the team and withdrew from school. Mompremier and Julmiste re-enrolled in January 2005, and Mompremier is the only one of the three still with the team today.
"I always knew I was coming back, but I definitely learned to appreciate how important a college scholarship was to me," Mompremier said. "And I learned to appreciate football, because I wasn't playing for the first time in a long time."
His first two seasons in Tampa didn't do much to feed that football craving. Mompremier played sparingly on special teams as a freshman and appeared in spot duty a year ago, making five tackles.
Adding to his frustration was the fact that four Miami Edison High teammates who signed along with him in 2004 were already making key contributions.
Before being dismissed from the team last offseason, receiver Jackie Chambers had solidified starting status by his sophomore season. Running back Chad Simpson returned a kickoff for a touchdown in the Bulls' monumental win over No. 9 Louisville in 2005, before transferring. Offensive tackle Marc Dile and nose tackle Richard Clebert were both in the rotation and clearly on the way to becoming future starters.
"It's been hard," Mompremier admitted. "I had more (recruiting interest) than all of them in high school and they were playing. I got frustrated, but they always helped me through it and I appreciate that. It's not everyone that gets to go to college with close friends from high school. It feels good to be here with Marc and Richard."
Despite his impressive start this season, it still wasn't a given that Mompremier would end up in the lineup this fall. First, he had to fend off a challenge from highly regarded junior college transfer Donte Spires. The Plant High product initially signed with the Bulls as a prep, but failed to qualify. Leavitt consistently said that Spires would get "a long look" during preseason camp.
"I felt like I was going to get the shot coming out of the spring because I'd been around and I knew the system. I thought that I had a big leg up. But I had to beat him out," Mompremier said of the competition from Spires. "I have the shot now and I want to do whatever I have to to help this team win. It feels just like high school all over again."
And the time spent learning behind standout linebackers St. Louis and Nicholas certainly wasn't time wasted. Mompremier said he took lessons from both.
"From Patrick, I learned to be knowledgeable about the defense and really listen to what Coach (Wally) Burnham is teaching; try to be a coach on the field and help (Ben) Moffitt out. Snake taught me to come to practice hard every day. No matter what was going on, he always came to practice with the right attitude. I'd never been around a guy like that before," Mompremier said.
That experience, and Mompremier's diligence, have been a recipe for success so far.
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