DAVIE — When it came time for senior night hugs, University School football coach Daniel Luque saved plenty of his tears for Brady Latchford.
“I cried on his shoulder like I haven’t cried for a long time,” Luque admitted.
One reason for the emotional farewell during a ceremony before University seniors played their final game Nov. 4 is because Luque and Brady have been through all of the program’s peaks and valleys in the past four years. But even playing for three head coaches in four years and the unexpected departure of star players, Brady, son of Amy Latchford and Seminole Police Chief William Latchford, never wavered. While others bolted, the 6-foot-1, 245-pound lineman from the Tribe became a key part of a core that helped hold the program together through the rough times.
“He remained loyal to the program,” Luque said.
A 3-7 season when Brady was a sophomore came just two years after the 2012 team went undefeated and won a state title with Roger Harriott at the helm. When Harriott left after the 2013 season, plenty of the team’s top players exited as well.
“During those years that the coach was still here, football was a really big sport at the school, but once he left nobody really had the feel that the team was going to be good, which we kind of showed that year, but even the year later after that coach had left they still thought football wasn’t a big deal,” Brady said. “We, as players – and the coaches helped us as well – started to rebuild the trust in the school.”
Under Luque, the road back to trust started when University rebounded with a 7-4 mark and playoff appearance last season. This year University overcame the loss of a highly-touted quarterback to another school before the season, yet still raced out of the gate with five straight wins and finished with a solid 7-3 record that wasn’t good enough to make the playoffs, but included victories against Nova, International School, St. John Paul II, Somerset, Village Academy, Westminster and Suncoast. West Broward dealt University a loss on senior night.
Brady, a three-year starter, served as a captain this season. He handled left tackle duties and generated a memorable final season. Luque said Brady graded an 85 on the line – representative of how he handled his assignments – and had the team’s second highest number of pancakes – flattening opponents – with 28.
“He had an amazing season,” Luque said.
The growth of the team’s younger players – those who will replace the seniors – impressed Brady.
“A lot of the young guys stepped up as young men, and us seniors becoming young adults, I feel the seniors really stepped up to bring up the younger guys to play like varsity players,” Brady said.
Brady’s work with helping the future of the team didn’t go unnoticed.
“He’s one of the best leaders I’ve been around at the U School,” Luque said. “He’s always trying to help the new guys on the team learn. He’s always kept positive and remained optimistic about the team. He definitely will be missed.”
Brady said he plans to attend college and study either criminology or accounting. He’s not sure if his playing days are over.
“If I get offered by a D-II school I’d highly consider it, but right now I’m just focusing on my education,” he said.
University won’t be without a Latchford. Brady’s younger brother Bradley, also a lineman, will be a senior next season.
Brady wasn’t the only Seminole who suited up this season at University. Rhett Tiger, a senior safety/cornerback, finished his second and final year with the club. Rhett joined University as a junior after he moved back to Florida from North Carolina.
“He’s a great character kid. He always gives 100 percent in practice,” Luque said.
Although he wasn’t a starter, Rhett produced a memorable game in a win against Somerset Academy on Sept. 16 when he picked off two passes.
“He had his best game against Somerset. He was all over the field,” Luque said.
Football isn’t Rhett’s main sport. His primary athletic competition comes as a long distance runner on the track team, but he enjoyed every moment of being a football player, which made the finality that accompanies senior night tough to grasp.
“It felt surreal,” said Rhett, who was joined by his parents Holly Bowers and Elrod Bowers during the ceremony. “I couldn’t process that this was the last time I get to put on my pads; it’s the last time I get to be on this field, but it was fun.”