With a game ticket at her side, UCF junior Miranda DeOnofrio would be one of tens of thousands of fans set to watch history in Spectrum Stadium following Thanksgiving Day.
A Knights football fan at heart, her path to UCF began in the unlikeliest of places, down the road in Tampa, Florida.
At the age of 14, young DeOnofrio needed a spinal fusion to be performed at Shrine’s Hospital for Children in Tampa – coincidentally, right next to USF, her father Rich DeOnofrio said.
“We had many, many trips to the hospital before and after the surgery. Many trips past USF. In her head, she decided she wanted to be a Bull to the point that we had to buy her a USF sweatshirt to wear,” Rich went on.
Through high school a future in Tampa Bay seemed certain.
As a growing teen, Miranda spent much of her time at the hospital and near the University of South Florida. Sure that she would become a Bulls student and fan, Miranda would place a trip to the University of Central Florida during her senior year ‘just for the heck of it,’ only to return home to announce she was going to be a Knight; her sights set on Orlando.
“She always said that in her heart she felt that after her trip, UCF was where she belonged. The irony of the beginning, to this part, is one thing. The irony for the rest is that she did the 180 and now they were her fiercest rival. She attended games, she attended tailgates, and I was even able to attend a game with Miranda and her friends,” Rich said.
If Miranda had work, she was listening to the games on her phone. She knew the players, their statistics, and “everything you could think of.” Miranda decided on a major in thanks to her psychology professor at UCF, inspiring the then-first-year student to become a UCF professor herself one day.
“As a freshman, I believe students are still trying to find their place. Not her. She knew that she bled Knight blood,” Rich continued.
“This past year, she insisted on wearing her Knights shirt ‘in case there were any USF players’ and to show them! I was just with her 3 weeks ago when I asked her about the big game and she reached into her purse, got out her wallet, and showed me her ticket as if it were Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. She loved the university and football team.”
On Friday night, one week before the rivalry game, Miranda suffered from an asthma attack and passed away at an Oviedo hospital. At 20 years old, DeOnofrio found her calling in forensic psychology and a place at UCF she would call home. And from the best bird’s eye view one can get, her father says, Miranda will be cheering on the Knights in their best run in program history as they play USF at home.
“She loved UCF and had her ticket for next week,” Rich finished. “The team will have some extra help on Friday from up above.”