The UCF football team landed in Phoenix, Arizona, on Dec. 27, eager to experience the environment surrounding the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl.

The Knights have fond memories at the Fiesta Bowl, where they upset Baylor in 2014. With that victory, UCF became the youngest school (1963) and football program (1979) to win a BCS bowl game.

They’re back for more, and while they have spent the last week preparing for their Jan. 1 showdown with LSU, they’ve also grown closer as a team and given back to the community.

sign that reads "they don't belong" as a player breaks through the word "don't"
UCF made its presence known at the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


Three men laugh while holding golf clubs in a lounge setting
Quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., wide receiver Marlon Williams and wide receiver Jacob Harris. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

At a team bonding event on Dec. 29, the team debated who is the real pro of Topgolf amid some friendly competition at the driving range.

A man with long hair wearing a beanie and black shirt and khaki pants takes a golf swing at a driving range at night
Punter Mac Loudermilk (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

Senior punter Mac Loudermilk ’18 was a natural at the range. His golf swing has become synonymous with his on-field celebrations.

Parade float of a glitter football trophy as it makes it way down the street on a cloudless blue sky day.
The Fiesta Bowl Parade. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


Three cheerleaders wearing black letterman jackets walk down a parade route.
The spirit team brought some black and gold cheer to the Fiesta Bowl Parade. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


UCF mascot Knightro shakes hands with children.
Knightro greets UCF fans and parade spectators. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


Jeweled tone sky with dusty mountains
Sunset from Piestewa Peak (Photo by Carly McCarthy ’14)

“It’s absolutely been a great experience for our players. All of the team activities have been a lot of fun, an opportunity for our kids to get a chance to see a different part of the country than what they’ve experienced, and have really enjoyed it.” — UCF head coach Josh Heupel

Three football players admire the Fiesta Bowl trophy
Tight end Anthony Roberson, safety Kyle Gibson and defensive lineman Dedrion Bacote-Sweat admire the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl trophy. (Photo by Carly McCarthy ’14)


Three football players take photos with their cell phones of gold football-shaped Fiesta Bowl trophy
Freshman running back Trillion Coles and Gibson take photos of the trophy. (Photo by Carly McCarthy ’14)


Two men talk in a hotel ballroom
Dale Whittaker talks with the Orlando Sentinel‘s Mike Bianchi (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


Three football players and a yellow sun mascot do pushups in front of a room of spectators
UCF tight end Tyler Williams, wide receiver Tristan Payton and defensive back Rahsaan Lewis  challenge the Fiesta Bowl mascot, Spirit, to a pushup contest during Dec. 30’s media day. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


A football player sits in front of a media backdrop and answers questions into microphones from media members
Quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. answers questions from media ahead of the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

“My teammates having the confidence in me has really helped me out a lot.” — Darriel Mack Jr.

A football player points and smiles at the camera, blue sky in the background
UCF running back Otis Anderson warms up for practice. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


a group of football players huddles on the football field
The 2018 UCF football team. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

One of the team’s last practices of the 2018 season took place in front of a stunning backdrop.

A child tackles a tackling dummy with football players supervising on a dirt lot
(Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)

The Knights taught children from military families football drills as part of a community service outreach event following Dec. 30’s practice at Scottsdale Community College.

Two players hold tackling mats as a teenage boy rushes to tackle
Austin Camden and Monterious Loggins run through a tackling drill. (Photo by Nick Leyva ’15)


Night sky full of stars and a burst of orange light on the horizon
The Milky Way (Photo by Austin Warren)

UCF’s mottos to “Reach for the Stars” takes on a whole new meaning in remote Arizona.