There are times, maybe during a UCF football practice, or a game or as he peers out of his office at the state-of-the-art Wayne Densch Sports Center, that Manny Messeguer will marvel at how much has changed at UCF.
Messeguer, you see, was around when dirt roads led to the campus at UCF, which at the time featured just six buildings on campus. A football program that was in its infancy had players dressing in an irrigation shed, borrowed uniforms and even spray-painted shoes so that they would match.
These days, Messeguer is a part of a UCF football program that is still riding the emotional wave of a 2010 season in which it won 11 games, captured a Conference USA title and gained a historic defeat of Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. Forgive Messeguer, a Special Assistant to UCF head coach George O’Leary, for sometimes being in awe of the transformation that has gone on at UCF over the last 30 years.
“When I first came out of the service and went to work for Heintzelman (car dealership) and I had to bring a car out to (former UCF president) Dr. (Charles) Millican. Once I got past Bumby Avenue, there was nothing but TG Lee Dairy and orange groves and I was on dirt roads,” Messeguer remembered. “When I pulled in here there were only a few buildings and I’m like, `This is the university?’
“When I look at it today, it’s unbelievable to me,” Messeguer continued. “It’s hard to imagine what I have seen through the years out here at UCF. From dirt roads to your own stadium and the latest facilities in the country and now even a medical school, it’s just incredible.”
Messeguer’s 30 years of service to UCF will be honored Friday night when he is inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame as an honorary letter winner. Messeguer will be joined by Bernard Ford (football), Jenny Frank (volleyball), Greg Jefferson (football), Cliff Kresge (men’s golf), Jorge Magluta (football) and former administrator Art Zeleznik as the latest inductees into UCF’s Hall of Fame.
The ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. at the J. Rolfe Davis Recruiting Lounge at Bright House Networks Stadium. Te reserve tickets for the event, contact the Golden Knights Club at 407-882-1286.
Messeguer will undoubtedly receive one of the largest ovations at Friday night’s event because of the length of his commitment to UCF and his passion for the program. In some way or another, he’s worked with each of UCF’s coaches – Don Jonas, Sam Weir, Lou Saban, Gene McDowell, Mike Kruczek and O’Leary.
Messeguer figures he will have at least 36 members of his family and friends in the crowd and he’s not sure how the moment will hit him. But he fully understands the significance of being honored by the schools he’s loved for three decades.
“This is probably the biggest honor that’s ever been paid to me in my life. It really is and I’ve been through a lot. I couldn’t believe it when they told me,” Messeguer said. “I’m not a very emotional guy, but I don’t know how I’ll react. When I thought about it, I got a little emotional at home. So who knows what I’ll do in front of my family and friends.”
A former pilot in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era, Messeguer served as the personal pilot for McDowell when he was UCF’s head coach from 1985 through 1997. Messeguer, who was a Vice President and General Manager at Tropical Ford in Orlando for 18 years, also served in roles as a donor leader and a sideline radio reporter.
But it’s his current role, as a special assistant to O’Leary, that Messeguer has cherished the most. Under O’Leary, UCF has experienced its greatest success and could be poised to enter a Bowl Championship Series-affiliated conference. Messeguer, who can usually be found near O’Leary’s side during media sessions and office meetings, tries to take some of the workload and headaches off the coach during a game week.
“I do a lot for Coach O’Leary to relieve him of all of the duties he’s got besides just football. There are constantly issues in and out of his office with parents, kids, academics, football, administration and equipment,” Messeguer said. “Coach O’Leary has this nature that he wants to win so badly and he’s on top of every detail. I just try to relieve a lot of that from him. … It’s been a great experience the whole time that I have been at UCF, but it’s been special with George O’Leary because we’ve won bowls and championships. I’m fortunate that I made it all of this time to enjoy these moments.”
As much as he reflects on the progress that UCF has made, Messeguer is eager to see how much more growth is still to come at UCF. After all, his love for UCF is everlasting.
“From where we were to where we are today, we have to be on the right path here at UCF,” Messeguer said. “At first, we were independent and played teams like the Moscow Bears – and I didn’t even know they played football in Russia. Now, we’re beating schools like Georgia and it’s just unbelievable. And with it sounding like we could be headed to a BCS conference in the future, it’s just showing how UCF keeps growing and growing.”