TAMPA – Whether he is seeking to wreak havoc upon opposing offenses or to enhance the lives of others through his interest in patient care, Kirk Livingstone has been making the most of his experience at the University of South Florida.
The redshirt junior defensive end attributes his interest in the medical field to his mother, Marion, who is a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. Seeing how she has helped patients over the years led him down the same path.
His level of interest was such that he studied medicine throughout middle school and high school. During Livingstone’s junior and senior years at Fort Lauderdale’s Shanahan High School he often visited the hospital to get a first-hand look at how patient care and other areas were structured. Becoming a medical doctor appealed to him, but USF introduced him to other possibilities.
“In high school there are a lot of kids that wanted to become doctors and that was my goal, too,” said the pre-med major. “That changed in my first or second year of college when I found out about (possibly becoming a) physician assistant.”
Livingstone said he prefers the flexibility of a physician assistant over the more rigid career structure of that of a medical doctor. He got a taste of what it is like to be PA this summer when he shadowed one at a clinic within the university’s Department of Family Medicine.
“This summer I asked Kirk what he wanted to do for a career and he said he was leaning toward being a physician assistant,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed, who as senior associate vice president for USF Health and founding dean and professor for the USF College of Pharmacy has witnessed Livingstone’s academic growth. “We got him to shadow the physician assistant on the floor. He never backs away from any experience that could help foster growth, and he actually gravitated toward it. He is a pretty unique individual.”
Livingstone has also had summer internships working within in the university’s pharmaceutical college. While that is not a career route he is likely to traverse, it has served as a valuable experience.
“I was able to do different things in the pharmacy to see how it works and get behind the scenes,” he said. “Pharmacy is not something that I would want to do, but it has opened my eyes in ways that I am able to learn how to talk to patients and deal with different things.”
The 2017-18 American Athletic Conference All-Academic Team member has opened some eyes with his play on the gridiron. Late in last Saturday’s 49-38 win over visiting Georgia Tech the 6-foot-3 and 263-pound Livingstone got a hand on the throwing arm Yellow Jackets’ quarterback TaQuon Marshall. The ball fluttered aimlessly and into the arms of linebacker Nico Sawtelle. Five plays later the Bulls were in the end zone to seal a win over their ACC opponent.
Though he played every game last season Livingstone was bothered by the lingering effects of a torn labrum in his right shoulder suffered in 2016. He said he spent most of the 2017 season (5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks) playing tentatively out of fear of re-injuring his shoulder, but that has not been the case this year.
“I am healthy now, but it was something I was kind of afraid of last fall,” he said. “But I was able to get through this year’s spring and fall camp feeling good.”
Coach Charlie Strong noticed a difference in Livingstone, particularly during fall camp.
“The thing Kirk has really done is he has come into this season as a totally different guy,” said Strong, while also noting Livingstone’s ability to lead by example. “I told him that and I said to him, “I didn’t see this out of you last year.’ His whole work ethic and how he goes about it now (have changed.)”
There is one thing Livingstone would like to change and that is for the Bulls to make it to their first AAC championship game. Last Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando they had those dreams foiled by a late kick return that was the difference in a 49-42 loss to UCF.
“That was a hard pill to swallow,” said Livingstone, who shares an on-campus apartment with fellow defensive end Greg Reaves. “We were almost there and every year I have been here we get closer and closer (to the championship game). I think this is the year we finish on top. That’s something that we emphasize during our runs and lifts and things like that. It’s about finishing. We have the talent.”
Livingstone, who enters this week’s game against Illinois with nine tackles, including 2.5 for loss, has shown the talent to be successful on the field and in his academic pursuits. It’s no wonder there is no lack of praise when it comes to his diligence in all facets of his USF experience.
“The hustle and determination you see on the football field is what he brings to the classroom,” said Sneed, who also works with USF’s sports medicine team. “Kirk’s a quiet leader and when he talks everybody usually listens.”