The return of the Syracuse University football “Senior Walk” offers the chance for departing seniors to say goodbye to fans after coming back for the opportunity, while also providing a glimpse at potential offseason movement.
Syracuse coach Dino Babers confirmed that the Orange is bringing back the tradition for seniors to take a lap around the Carrier Dome following their final game in the venue. But this time, the sixth-year SU coach will open it up to juniors and others that could be in line to leave the program.
Syracuse (5-6 overall, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) will close the regular season by hosting No. 17/20 Pittsburgh (9-2, 6-1) at 7:30 Saturday night in the Dome to be televised on the ACC Network.
Following the regular-season finale, the “super seniors,” will be joined by other likely departures in walking around the Dome to greet fans, who were encouraged by Babers to stick around and take part.
“It’s an opportunity to thank them one last time, share some thoughts or moments in their careers that were exciting for you or motivated you in your life,” Babers said. “I’ve gone through it and it’s a very emotional thing.”
Babers launched the tradition for SU in 2017 and spoke of former players that have frequently told him how much they appreciated the event.
Babers specifically mentioned former quarterback Eric Dungey, whose popularity caused a nearly hourlong farewell in 2018, providing passionate feedback.
Several members among the returning group of super seniors — offensive lineman Airon Servais, fullback/tight end Chris Elmore, and defensive linemen Josh Black, Kingsley Jonathan, McKinley Williams, and Cody Roscoe — took an impromptu lap last year in the empty Carrier Dome to end a 1-10 season in which spectators were barred throughout due to COVID-19 concerns.
Servais and Jonathan said they “hated,” the circumstances surrounding that downtrodden walk when speaking of their comeback prior to this season, and looked forward to a more fitting farewell, which could be this weekend. SU needs a victory to gain bowl eligibility and extend their respective careers.
“It’s so important for us to go out on a high note, especially with what happened last year, that’s one of the main reasons I came back ... was kind of steer the ship in the right direction,” Black said during a recent interview. “There’s no better feeling of correcting what we did wrong from last year to this year and it’s been awesome to see the growth.”
Servais will start his 60th straight game — extending his SU record for total starts and the longest active streak in the FBS — while Black is questionable due to an upper-body injury suffered last game.
Elmore, meanwhile, is out with an upper-body injury but will redshirt and be back for a sixth season next year, Babers revealed earlier this week. The fullback/tight end has appeared in just four games due to various injuries.
Babers said that several players considered juniors and sophomores for eligibility purposes could be in line to graduate and thus possibly move on from the program. That could be the case for the next handful of years due the potential for an added season for those who played through the COVID-19 pandemic last fall.
He said he asked those who might leave to step forward, without revealing who took the offer, and said they should not miss the chance to participate in the tradition.
Syracuse sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones, who is a potential pro prospect and the third-leading tackler in the ACC at 8.6 per game, said he was unsure if he would be taking the walk.
The SU coach is hoping to make the final lap around the Dome a festive occasion for all participants, particularly the seniors who returned to guide SU’s bounce-back from a one-win campaign.
“It all started back with those super seniors, and them recommitting to coming back, I knew that we were going to have a bridge, that we had an opportunity to get some things done,” Babers said.
He added: “I love proving people wrong, but now we have an opportunity to really prove people wrong, but we got a tough opponent. I’m excited about the opportunity and I think the guys in the room are as well.”
HARPER TO TRANSFER
Redshirt junior defensive lineman Curtis Harper announced plans to leave Syracuse and enter the NCAA transfer portal. He posted a statement to social media earlier this week to confirm his intentions while thanking SU.
The 6-foot-2, 285-pound interior defensive presence has appeared in 33 games over four seasons and recorded 42 tackles, including six for loss, and three sacks.
Harper enters the portal as a graduate transfer and will have one year of eligibility left.
TOUCHDOWN PLEDGE DRIVE
The Syracuse Chapter of Uplifting Athletes is holding a Touchdown Pledge Drive for Saturday night’s game to benefit the rare disease community.
The SU chapter of the national organization, which is operated by college football players aiming to fund research for and raise awareness of rare diseases, is asking fans to make a pledge for each TD the Orange scores against the Pittsburgh Panthers.
HEISMAN ON DISPLAY
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ernie Davis’ historic Heisman Trophy-winning season for Syracuse, the Orange will display the hardware during Saturday night’s regular-season finale.
Fans can get a glimpse and take pictures with the trophy at the east end-zone lower concourse in the Dome.
Davis rushed for 823 yards and 12 touchdowns in 1961 to help lead SU to an 8-3 record and final ranking of No. 14 in the Associated Press poll. He was the first Black player and only SU representative to win the prestigious award annually presented to the best player in college football.