Nov. 10—SYRACUSE — The former Section 3 standout now affectionately referred to as "Father Time," by his Syracuse University football teammates is set for his final appearance in the JMA Wireless Dome.
Eric Coley, a redshirt senior from Fayetteville-Manlius, is among the SU players approaching their last home game when the unranked Orange (6-3 overall, 3-2 ACC) hosts the No. 25 Florida State Seminoles (6-3, 4-3) at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Dome.
The 24-year-old Coley is in his sixth season as a defensive back at SU after entering the program at age 18 soon after graduating from nearby F-M High School in June 2017.
"I actually don't even really know how to feel right now," Coley said. "It's kind of crazy because I've been here for so long and everybody calls me the old guy, and I just feel like I'm always going to be here, so I don't think it's really quite set in yet, that this is the last one."
Coley redshirted his inaugural year in 2017 and received a medical waiver upon suffering a season-ending injury in the 2020 opener after winning a starting job that summer.
He has contributed to the SU secondary as a starter and backup at various points in 39 career games.
Coley remained with the program despite SU coach Dino Babers firing his stepfather, former defensive line coach Vince Reynolds, at the end of last season amid a staff shake-up.
Reynolds, who now holds the same position at Arkansas State, was a part of Babers' initial staff in 2016, leading Coley to the area to finish high school as a star defensive back and running back at F-M.
The native of Tulsa, Okla., previously played high school football in Michigan through his junior year. Coley noted that he still talks to his former high school coaches from the Hornets after every game.
"I always knew coming in that I didn't want to transfer, so I knew once this was my spot that I was going to be here," Coley said. "I did not think I was going to be here for six years, maybe four years."
He added: "Coming back, I just wanted one more year. I don't know if I'm going to be playing after this one, and I've loved it here, and if this is going to be the last time I'm playing football, I wanted it to be here at Syracuse."
Coley has contributed 89 career tackles, seven pass breakups and an interception, including five tackles in seven appearances this year. He defended the last pass on fourth-down to help secure SU's 22-20 victory over Virginia on Sept. 27 to improve to 4-0 and enter the Top 25 for the first time since 2019.
"I just know I'm looking forward to this game and I'm just appreciative, and overall blessed that I got to play here," Coley said. "Syracuse was good to me."
Coley is one of four sixth-year SU players that have spent their entire career with the Orange. He is joined by offensive lineman Dakota Davis, kicker Andre Szmyt, and fullback Chris Elmore, who suffered a season-ending injury in the opener and could possibly return for a seventh year.
Coley spent his first few seasons with players in current NFL secondary units like Andre Cisco (Jacksonville), Ifeatu Melifonwu (Detroit) and Trill Williams (Miami) and has since tried to pass on their teachings.
Coley has taken up the lead on team Bible studies this season and has provided the steadying veteran presence in the locker room and on the field for younger members of the secondary.
"He's a guy that always keeps us focused, always keeps us together as a team," said SU sophomore cornerback, Duce Chestnut. "He's been here so he knows what it's like to be part of a good team, part of a bad team, a team that's put together. He's just a great leader in the locker room and it's always been like that."
Syracuse will close the regular season with back-to-back road games at Wake Forest, slated for 8 p.m. on Nov. 19, and at Boston College on Nov. 26 at a time to be determined.
FAREWELL WALK SET
After Saturday's game, SU seniors and underclassmen who could potentially depart after the season will take a lap around the Dome to greet fans and take photos.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers launched the "senior walk," as an annual tradition in 2018 and it has become a popular addition to the regular-season finale among outgoing players and supporters that are encouraged to stay and fill the bottom section of the Dome afterward.
Players that could potentially forego remaining eligibility were added to the mix last year and some that participate could still return. SU kicker Andre Szmyt took the lap last year before deciding to come back for his redshirt senior campaign.
"It's emotional for sure," Szmyt said. "Everyone comes up to you and kind of gives their thanks for everything you've done, and come up with memories you never would have thought of in the moment, certain kicks you had a couple years ago, it's really something I appreciated a lot."
SZMYT a GROZA SEMIFINALIST
Andre Szmyt was named one of the 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award on Thursday, presented annually to the nation's top kicker.
Szmyt won the award as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and is 15-for-17 on field goals this year while making all 31 extra point attempts. He holds the SU career records for total points (430), field goals made (80) and his 83.3 percent rate makes him the most accurate kicker in program history.
Three finalists will be unveiled Nov. 29 and the winner will be announced live during the College Football Awards Show on Dec. 8 on ESPN.
ACC NETWORK ON CAMPUS
The ACC Network will broadcast three studio shows on location at SU this weekend.
The "ACC Huddle," will air live from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the JMA Wireless Dome with ongoing coverage through the day, a primetime slot from 6:30-8 p.m., and a recap show at the end of the night.
The weekday programs "In Play," and "ACC PM," will broadcast live from the SU Quad starting at 3 p.m. Friday and include a "fan activation footprint," with interactive games and activities surrounding the set.