TAMPA, MAR 30, 2018 – If I was to say the name ‘Mike Love,’ many would probably put forth a semi-recognizable glance, followed by “Isn’t he one of the Beach Boys?” Certainly if you’re in your late 40’s or older, that’d be the most familiar retort, and you’d be correct, too.
However, if you’re more familiar with sports in general, football in particular, and the Tampa Bay region to be exact, the name Mike Love is quite another matter, as he’s the now graduated Defensive End from the University of South Florida who’s set to bring his 6’3” 255lb frame and 80”wingspan to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks in the National Football League.
Trust me when I tell you, those opposing pigskin throwers won’t be feeling any ‘Good Vibrations’ when the former Bull has his sights set on either sacking them, batting down their passes, or any other calamitous acts he’ll perform.
Playing ball at Clearwater’s Countryside High, Love was quite talented as both a basketball player on the hardwood as well as the gridiron, where scouts began to take notice of his abilities. In basketball, Love was moved to varsity as a freshman. But after getting offers following his sophomore season in football, with coaches telling him he could be ‘really special,’ Love started taking the game more seriously. He stated, “I realized that was the way to do what I really wanted to do in my life.”
Love has grown up quite a bit from his upbringing with his three brothers and their single mother, without the benefit of a strong male figure in his life. However, things would take a fortunate turn through his friendship since the sixth grade with Daulton Martinez, son of former Major Leaguer and current Manager of the Washington Nationals Dave Martinez.
After gaining his mother’s permission, Love lived with the Martinez’ family for a few formative high school years, with the elder Martinez providing structure and the needed ‘strong male role model grooming’ Love previously lacked. Love moved back in with his mother and brothers for his junior year, with good grades and success in sports leading to several offers – Mississippi State, Nebraska, West Virginia, and Louisville. Love however had one school particularly in mind, although Coach Skip Holtz wasn’t actively in pursuit.
“I always wanted to go there (USF)… they paid me attention, but they never offered me (a scholarship). People asked me where I wanted to go, and I’d say USF… USF.” Finally, upon Holtz’ departure, Coach Willie Taggart made Love the offer he had been waiting years to hear. “I committed right on the spot. My dream school… close to my family… my backyard.”
Love graduated from South Florida in 2016 with a degree in Criminology, and has been taking graduate course work in Entrepreneurship since. He is slated to go anywhere between the 5th and 7th rounds in next month’s draft, and depending on team and scheme will likely play either Rush End or 3-4 Outside Linebacker. Love played both positions while at USF, and has been training for both since his last college game. Either putting his hand in the dirt as an end or as an upright outside ‘backer – think Defensive standout Khalil Mack of the Raiders – Love is ready for the transition from college to the pros.
One of Love’s more memorable highlights which stand out was his 2016 game-ending sack and subsequent forced fumble by the quarterback in the Birmingham Bowl, while thoughts of his past surgeries in 2015 remain fresh. “I rehabbed my tail-off and got my body back right following micro-fracture surgery on my left knee and a Lis-franc sprain on my foot; you gotta take care of your body (but now) my body feels great.”
I asked Love about his personal views regarding next month’s draft prospects. “I really started playing (well) in 2016… it brought me out to the light and by 2017 people knew about me and started watching… I only had two good years, but if they would’ve seen me all four years, I feel I would’ve been higher on their radar, but I’m just grateful to be where I’m at.”
So what will make Love a success on the next level? “My motor and my ‘get off’ is one of the best things about me… being energetic and knowing the game… I do need to work on my lower body strength to play the run well. To do that a high level, I need to get stronger.” I applaud him for that, as he knows both his successful traits while also understanding what he needs to do to become an asset to his team.
As for his college memories, what will Love remember from his days with the Bulls? “I’m going to miss my teammates… the brotherhood we had. What a cool locker room… we really loved each other. When something was bad, we handled it quick. The type of bond we created there (at USF) going from 2-10; It wasn’t as close (a bond) then as it is now. I’ll never forget that… or our advisors…if you ever needed help, they were always there for you.” During his senior year, Love had 30 tackles (12 tackles for loss), and acknowledges 6-7 sacks with an additional three passes defensed.
If you think Love will have his eyes glued to the TV for the draft, think again, as he has much more important matters to tend to presently. “We’ll be going to a wedding, so I’ll be around my family.” No one can question his physical presence and attributes, but I asked Mr. Love what traits will make him an incontestable asset for his team in the professional ranks? “I keep my nose clean… I stay out of trouble… you won’t see me on the headlines for anything negative. I’m a positive dude… on the football side I’ll be all over the place. I’ll make the plays as I can… I’ll do my job first… and RUSH THE PASSER.”
What does Mike Love envision himself doing following his football career? It was a quick, succinct answer: “After I’m done, I want to open some franchises, and open my own nightclub – Club Love.” Club Love… with Mike Love in charge, should make for some “Good Vibrations” indeed!!
Jay “Captain Jack” Levy, BCP Contributor