Best of Sports

Illustration+by+Ivan+Benavides+%7C+Creative+Director

Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

UP Staff

The Flyest Owl: Jaquez Johnson

The quarterback may be suave on the field, but it’s his sideline style that has earned him the title of “Best Dressed Athlete.”

Story by Emily Creighton

On campus, Jaquez Johnson, football’s redshirt senior quarterback, is known as number 32, but on Pinterest, he’s known as “hardbody12.”

It all started when head coach Charlie Partridge implemented a policy where players wear business attire during the Owl Walk, two years ago. “There is just something about dressing up,” Partridge previously told the UP. “You’re in a different mode. This is business now.”

The Owl Walk is a home game tradition where the football team, marching band, cheerleading and dance teams walk through the Lot 5 tailgate, entering the stadium while students look on.

Johnson wears a George Sherman jacket, Nordstrom Rack button down, Ralph Lauren pants, an Hermes belt and Aldo shoes. Photo by Mohammed F. Emran | Asst. Creative Director
Johnson wears a George Sherman jacket, Nordstrom Rack button down, Ralph Lauren pants, an Hermes belt and Aldo shoes. Photo by Mohammed F. Emran | Asst. Creative Director

“I’m very comfortable being a college quarterback on Pinterest,” said Johnson, who became a member of the “visual discovery” site in 2013.

Johnson said he was never big on varying his wardrobe growing up, but had a change of heart after Partridge’s call. “I was thinking, ‘Since I have to dress up, I might as well look good for it.’”

The suggestion to join Pinterest came from Johnson’s mom. “I told her I was gonna find different things. And she asked if I ever heard of Pinterest. I was like, ‘No, what’s that?’”

So, he joined the site, searching keywords like “men’s business casual” and pinning — or marking — styles he liked.

“Say I have a pair of pants. I have some pink pants,” Johnson explained. “I was like, ‘I need something to wear with these pink pants.’ So I typed in ‘men’s pink pants’ and found a whole bunch of different styles.”

His biggest fashion inspirations include rapper Kanye West, because “he’s real good with simple colors and putting outfits together,” and Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton, who can be found pinned under Johnson’s “Things to Wear” board.

Unlike his quick decision making on the field though, Johnson takes his time preparing his gameday ensembles. The quarterback typically thinks about what he wants to wear for a couple of days, putting pieces together in between classes — he’s working toward his MBA in sports management — and practice. By Thursday evening, his outfit is finalized and put in his bag.

But don’t expect to catch Johnson in his chino pants and blazer in the Breezeway. That’s where his trusty gym shorts and T-shirts still come into play. “I don’t really dress up all the time. But when I have to dress up, I will, and I take pride in it.”



Members of the FAU football team celebrate after their 31-17 win over Florida International on Oct. 31. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Members of the FAU football team celebrate after their 31-17 win over Florida International on Oct. 31.
Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Moment

SHULA BOWL

The Owls’ 10th Shula Bowl win had a little bit of everything for the fans.

Story by Ryan Lynch

Sitting at 1-6 after three straight losses, it seemed like football was poised to drop the Shula Bowl in their annual game against rival Florida International Golden Panthers. Injuries and the lack of a consistent scoring punch hindered the Owls all season, leaving fans to question the team’s chances.

Despite expectations, FAU took a 17-7 lead in the first half after scoring on three of their first four drives of the game. Freshman running back Trey Rodriguez had one of his best games of the season, running for 94 yards and scoring two touchdowns by game’s end.

On defense, the team held the Golden Panthers to a single touchdown before the second half began. FIU quarterback Alex McGough couldn’t get into a rhythm against the Owls as he was sacked 7.5 times during the game, including 2.5 sacks from two defensive linemen — redshirt freshman Hunter Snider and junior Trey Hendrickson.

Closing out games has been a struggle for the Owls this season, with three of their defeats coming after losing a lead in the second half. But, the worry of that recurring problem disappeared when the team took the field once again.

After allowing FIU to kick a field goal in the third quarter, a 1-yard run by Rodriguez and a 58-yard interception return touchdown by freshman defensive back Jalen Young sealed the game for FAU.

Before the final whistle sounded, players sprinted toward the southeast corner of the endzone in a rush of red jerseys to grab the Shula Bowl trophy, tearing off the FIU helmet fastened onto it.

Soon after, students and fans charged onto the field to enjoy the win — the first time the field has been rushed at FAU Stadium.

While in the grand scheme of things the win didn’t improve the Owls’ place in the conference standings, or give them any more of a chance at a bowl game, but it represented a relief of frustration after a string of losses.



Jaquez Johnson was voted Favorite Male Athlete. He is ranked second all- time among FAU quaterbacks in average passing yards per game, with 186 yards. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Jaquez Johnson was voted Favorite Male Athlete. He is ranked second all-time among FAU quaterbacks in average passing yards per game, with 186 yards.
Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Football Players

CRE’VON LEBLANC AND JAQUEZ JOHNSON

Johnson and LeBlanc tied for “Best Football Player,” while the senior quarterback took the voting for “Favorite Male Athlete.”

Story by Ryan Lynch

Both defensive back Cre’von LeBlanc and quarterback Jaquez Johnson have established themselves as leaders on the field during their respective tenures, becoming senior captains this year on their sides of the ball.

Johnson got his start with the Owls in 2012 after transferring from East Mississippi Community College, replacing starting quarterback Greg Hankerson after the first game of the season.

Cre’von LeBlanc tied with Jaquez Johnson for Best Football Player. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Cre’von LeBlanc tied with Jaquez Johnson for Best Football Player. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

In 30 games, Johnson has thrown for 5,447 yards, 37 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He ranks second all-time among FAU quarterbacks in passing yards per game — 186 yards — and leads all Owls quarterbacks in total offense with 244 yards per game.

Besides leading the team’s offense on the field, Johnson is also working on his master’s degree in sports management and has an eye for the latest fashion trends (see more on page 19). On defense, Cre’von LeBlanc is one of the Owls’ biggest standouts in pass defense, becoming a leader to a young secondary unit.

LeBlanc worked into the starting position as a freshman in 2012, increasing his playing time to all 12 games by the 2014 season. The Belle Glade native currently leads the team with four interceptions and has 10 pass breakups through 10 games.

LeBlanc and Johnson tied with eight votes each for favorite football player, while wide receiver Jenson Stoshak came up a vote short of forcing a three-way tie. Trevon Coley received three votes to take fourth place.

Johnson received 60 percent of the votes cast in the “Favorite Male athlete race, beating out cross country’s Michael Vidal, swimming’s Matthieu Burtez and soccer’s Patrick Darby.



Head coach Charlie Partridge is a Plantation native with extensive roots in South Florida. He has used his connections to recruit heavily in the region. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Head coach Charlie Partridge is a Plantation native with extensive roots in South Florida. He has used his connections to recruit heavily in the region. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Coach

CHARLIE PARTRIDGE

Back for his second year as head coach, Charlie Partridge has become one of the most recognized members of FAU Athletics.

Story by Ryan Lynch

By helping freshmen move into their dorms, wearing red pants to encourage students to fill the section or pranking unsuspecting people on the Breezeway, football head coach Charlie Partridge has established himself as part of the campus culture.

Hired in 2013 after former head coach Carl Pelini resigned due to a drug use scandal, Partridge was tasked with commanding a locker room that went through a vast amount of change in a short period.

With a record of 3-9 in his first year at the helm, Partridge worked to bring on more players. His 2014 recruiting class was ranked as the second best in C-USA next to Marshall, according to 247sports.com.

Currently at 2-9 with two games to play, Partridge will feel pressure to perform in his third year. He beat out women’s soccer coach Patrick Baker, volleyball coach Fernanda Nelson and swimming and diving coach Lara Preacco, receiving 56 percent of all votes.



After a suspension cost him four games this year, Rodriguez burst on to the scene in a game versus FIU on Oct. 10. His five rushing touchdowns lead the team. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
After a suspension cost him four games this year, Rodriguez burst on to the scene in a game versus FIU on Oct. 10. His five rushing touchdowns lead the team. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Newcomer

TREY RODRIGUEZ

Rodriguez ran his way to being named “Favorite Newcomer” of FAU Athletics.

Story by Ryan Lynch

Few people from outside the program would’ve given Trey Rodriguez a chance of playing much this upcoming year, but the running back took his chance and ran with it — literally.

Rodriguez was suddenly put into the Owls’ fifth game of the season after head coach Charlie Partridge was looking for a player who could supplement the duo of junior Jay Warren and sophomore Greg Howell, who had both struggled with inconsistency. The freshman wasted no time making an impact, running for a 9-yard touchdown in his first collegiate game. Since then, he has led the team in rushing — scoring five touchdowns in six games and averaging 68.9 yards rushing per game. His 470 total offensive yards is fourth on the team, behind quarterbacks Jason Driskel and Jaquez Johnson, and fellow running back Howell.

Ranked as the 15th best all-purpose back in his 2014 signing class, Rodriguez brings speed to the Owls’ backfield and could fight for the starting position in the seasons to come.

Rodriguez beat out teammate Ocie Rose, Giovana Alves of women’s soccer and David Adenjunmobi of men’s soccer to win “Favorite Newcomer.”



Senior guard Alison Gorrell (23) dribbles past a UAB defender last season. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Senior guard Alison Gorrell (23) dribbles past a UAB defender last season. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Women’s Basketball Player

ALISON GORRELL

Story by Ryan Lynch

Alison Gorrell was introduced to the spotlight as a redshirt junior when she and fellow guard Morgan Robinson presided over the youngest team in NCAA women’s basketball. The group included eight freshmen and had no seniors.

Gorrell led all Florida Atlantic players with 6.5 rebounds per game and 68 assists. She was second to former Owl Shaneese Bailey with 13.9 points per game.

Off the court, Gorrell earned multiple academic awards, including an All-Academic team nod from Conference USA and a place on the College Sports Information Directors of America All-District team.

She also was one of 14 athletes who earned the C-USA Spirit of Service award for her volunteer work with local and national groups, including Advent Square Senior Community Center and Friends of Jaclyn.

With a preseason, all-conference team selection from collegesportsmadness.com, Gorrell has the benefit of leading a more experienced team as one of the two senior players on the roster.

“Ali is one of our senior leaders, and she certainly is playing every day in practice with a sense of urgency,” said women’s basketball head coach Kellie Lewis-Jay. “I look for her to have a great year for us.”



Sophomore center C.J. Turman (center) on the free throw line in a game against WKU last season. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Sophomore center C.J. Turman (center) on the free throw line in a game against WKU last season. Photo by Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Best Men’s Basketball Player

C.J. TURMAN

Story by Ryan Lynch

Returning for his sophomore season with the Owls, 6-foot-9, 250-pound center C.J. Turman has taken a starting role after coming off the bench for much of last year. He largely played behind key players Justin Raffington and Kelvin Penn, who have since both graduated.

During his senior year of high school, Turman received a scholarship offer and signed a national letter of intent to Tennessee. But in May 2014, newly hired men’s head coach Michael Curry convinced Turman to become part of his first signing class.

ESPN placed him as the sixth best player in his home state of Georgia and the 18th best center in the U.S.

Turman made his mark in his freshman year, playing in all 29 games for FAU and starting 10 of them. He was second among freshmen in scoring on the team with 5.8 points per game.

On defense, Turman was second with 18 blocks and used his size and strength to pull down 95 rebounds, the third most on the team.

“He probably played better as a starter, but with two seniors [in the starting lineup,] we felt that if a freshman was going to start, he had to go get the starting spot,” Curry said at the end of last season. “The coaching staff didn’t think C.J. grabbed it. We could have easily given it to him, but when you give players something, it can’t be taken away. When they earn it, they keep it.”

With a chance to earn those major minutes as the lone returning center on the team, Turman will have a chance to prove he deserves the starting spot.

Turman edged out Solomon Poole, Jackson Trapp and Marquan Botley to take the title of best men’s basketball player.



Claire Emslie took over as captain for women’s soccer this year, helping lead them to their first ever C-USA tournament berth. Photo by Ryan Lynch | Sports Editor
Claire Emslie took over as captain for women’s soccer this year, helping lead them to their first ever C-USA tournament berth.
Photo by Ryan Lynch | Sports Editor

Best Women’s Soccer Player and Favorite Female Athlete

CLAIRE EMSLIE

Setting records and scoring goals is what allowed the midfielder to take both “Favorite Women’s Soccer Player” and “Favorite Female Athlete.”

Story By Ryan Lynch

There’s not much that midfielder Claire Emslie has left to achieve on a soccer field after her four year career at Florida Atlantic.

Emslie has set multiple program records, including the most career goals scored (29) and shots attempted (249).

Emslie took the lead of the team in her senior season, being selected as team captain by head women’s soccer coach Patrick Baker.

Starting and playing in all 21 games, she was second on the team with seven goals scored, and tied junior defender Kelsey Parry for the team lead in assists with four. Her play earned her a place on the All-Conference USA team.

Women’s soccer had their best season in Conference USA so far, going 12-8-1 and qualifying for their first C-USA tournament ever.

Having captained the under-15, under-17 and under-19 national teams for her home country of Scotland, as well as spending some time each summer with Scottish women’s pro team Hibernian LFC, Emslie is set to join the professional ranks when she graduates this year.



Phillip Hitpass helped guide the Owls to their first two wins of the season after taking over as starter for the second half of the season. Photo by Ryan Lynch
Phillip Hitpass helped guide the Owls to their first two wins of the season after taking over as starter for the second half of the season. Photo by Ryan Lynch | Sports Editor

Best Men’s Soccer Player

PHILLIP HITPASS

Goalkeeper voted “Favorite Men’s Soccer Player” after a mid-season change gave him his chance.

Story by Ryan Lynch

Goalkeeper Phillip Hitpass joined head men’s soccer coach Kos Donev’s team after playing two years at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama, registering a 12-7-1 record as a sophomore in 2014.

He took over the starting job in his first year, when fellow transfer junior Josh Nolan did not record a win in the first seven games. Under Hitpass, the team went 2-3-1 to end the year, including three shutouts.

Hitpass, who has played on the under-19 team of German pro team MSV Duisburg, could potentially compete with Nolan for a starting position in his final season.

The junior beat out Ramon Whitaker, Michael Quinn and Patrick Darby for the best men’s soccer player, winning with a total of nine votes.