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A Tribute To Louisville Football's Class of 2011

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Special is a world tossed around frequently in today's society, sometimes too frequently. As an individual, a family, or simply as a group of Cardinal loving fanatics, everyone can observe and truly feel when something special is beginning, evolving, and consuming us. A few select eras and individuals through the history of Louisville Athletics have blossomed into something beyond competitive champions. The football class of 2011 eclipses a word so simple as "special" and their impact on our Cardinal community will linger for longer than a lifetime.

A 1980 championship team gave us names such as Crum, Griffith, Burkman, Brown, Smith, Eaves, McCray, Deuser, and Branch. 2013 brought Louisville a third championship banner, but the gifts named Siva, Dieng, Hancock, and Smith coupled with their lasting influences will surpass the importance of their victories. 33 years may have separated the two championship teams, but their similarities cannot be ignored. These teams and individuals were great athletes that embraced the Louisville community, dedicated themselves to their sport and each other, and have chosen to always hold Louisville as a special place in their respective lives. These individuals live here, visit here, and support the university constantly; they were and will always be Louisville First, Cardinals Forever.

The Cardinal community has always had a family feel to it, some periods we are closer than others, and the class of 2011 will stand tall next to the 1980 and 2013 basketball teams. With a mixture of underrated local talent, playground heroes from Miami, and athletes with storylines worthy of Steven Spielberg, the 2011 recruiting class taught us to believe upon their signing day. We knew from the beginning it would be an unrivaled era of Louisville football, but how special this group has become, and will continue to be, could have never been imagined.

A certain Theodore Bridgewater headlines the class, and he will always be the face of this era. Lorenzo Mauldin is, and should be just as cherished for his against all odds attitude and happiness, and DeVante Parker will be remembered as the greatest Cardinal receiver of all time. Gerod Holliman tied a five decade old NCAA record, Andrew Johnson Kissed the Mountaineers goodbye, Eli Rogers was Mr. Reliable, Terrell Floyd began the Sugar Bowl onslaught, Charles Gaines ran with and talked faster than a cheetah, Jamon Brown has secured an NFL future and sets a perfect example for local youth, Calvin Pryor may be the hardest hitting safety we've ever seen, and the list goes on and on with contributions and memories.

This group were the second most successful in Louisville history in terms of wins totaling 39. They captured two bowl wins including the Sugar Bowl. These Cardinals earned end of year awards and deserved notoriety. They notched several program firsts, including a win at Notre Dame Staidum, the Jim Thorpe award, and three first round NFL draft picks in 2014. The class of 2011 ushered this promising football program into the ACC. Some from this group have become franchise players in the NFL and several more will follow. These kids endured a stressful coaching change and have successfully reinstated Louisville as a premier football program.

The athletic achievements of this class have afforded them an opportunity to reserve a special place in our memories. Their personalities, smiles, effort, willingness to embrace the fans and community, and their recognition of Louisville as their home has guaranteed them a lasting place in our hearts. These athletes will forever be a part of us, and we could have never asked for better representatives of our city, our university, and our Cardinal family.

It is harder to feel attachment in football the way we do in basketball, but this collection of Cardinals have given us great insight into four amazing years of Louisville Football. There are nicknames and first names for almost everyone, the parents have been almost as visible as the athletes, the backstories have left us in tears more than once, and a dyed set of dreadlocks will forever be missed. Thank you to the class of 2011 for everything, and most importantly your commitment to be Louisville First, Cardinals Forever.

Best of luck in whatever your future may hold, and remember, you are welcome home anytime.

All Hail UofL !!