“This is such an unbelievable place for a football game and it’s a place that, no matter where you’re at, people kind of know about the Swamp. I look at it as more so not a right but more so as a privilege to be able to play in the Swamp. To able to be a part of that history of what a great place it is.”
It’s a word thrown around a lot these days. Most who toss it out have no idea what it means.
Being a Florida Gator football player is a big deal. Playing in one of the loudest stadiums in college football in front of 90,000+ fans is a big deal.
They don’t just let anybody suit up in the orange and blue. If you follow college football recruiting at all, one of the first lessons you learn is that they can’t get everybody.
But that works both ways. Not everybody can be a Florida Gator either.
Dozens or more in-state recruits every year who may have grown up Gator fans or simply want to be a Gator get turned away every year.
Just like thousands of prospective Florida Gator students get turned away each year as well.
Being a Florida Gator student athlete is a privelege just like being selected to be a Florida Gator student.
It’s certainly not a right.
Think about how many high school football players claim a Florida offer each year. The actual number who have an actual commitable offer is much, much smaller.
Hundreds of really good high school football players each year never get the chance to play in that stadium in a Gator uniform.
Donning the Orange and Blue and playing in the Swamp isn’t a right, it’s a privelege.
When they put on that uniform, they’re not just representing themselves and their team, they’re representing all the great, hardworking Florida Gators before them.
Jack Youngblood, Carlos Alvarez, John Reaves, Steve Spurrier, Kerwin Bell, Neal Anderson, Wilber Marshall, Emmitt Smith, Louis Oliver, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes, and the list goes on ad infinitum.
So many great Gators who played on that field went on to have successful careers not only in the NFL, but in all walks of life.
“Gator Nation: it’s everywhere” is not simply a marketing slogan.
It’s the truth!
Keeping it real.
It means something to be a Florida Gator and it means something to be a Gator student athlete.
When Urban Meyer left and Will Muschamp took over everyone talked about a broken program.
Want the know why it was a broken program?
Somewhere along the way it stopped meaning something to Florida Gator football players to be a Florida Gator.
Somehow, the name on the back of the jersey became larger than the name on the front.
That’s a problem.
I’ve been following Gator athletics since 1977 and I can honestly say that even in the midst of an 0-10-1 season in 1979, the players on that Gator team took pride in that uniform and pride in coming out of that tunnel many years before the stadium was given the Swamp nickname.
It meant something to be a Florida Gator and it still does.
When a Gator football player walks on to that field on game day they owe it, not only to themselves, but to those who came before them to give everything they’ve got for the orange and blue.
If they take for granted playing on that field, playing in that uniform, then they have no business being on that field or in that uni.
The Head Ball Coach used to say about recruiting, “if they don’t want to be Gators that’s fine, we’ll go find us some who do want to be Gators.”
Those are the kind of players who understand that it’s not a right but a privelege to play on that field.
With all the talk about new facilities, perhaps the biggest deal of all was announced by coach McElwain on Thursday’s Gator Talk radio program.
“(We’re) putting in a spot that is a former Gator locker room,”McElwain said. “A place that they (former Gator players) can come back here and work out and know that it’s home, and in turn now they have an opportunity to show the guys that are here working out what it’s like to be in the National Football League.”
“I’m one of these guys that wants them back here as much as possible because this was home for them and such a big place for them moving on to the next level.”
“You know what’s also really cool?” McElwain asked. When they make a play and chomp.”
That is really cool because it’s all part of building the Gator brand but it also shows how much respect they have for that uniform and for playing on the field.
And having former players walking through that locker room will be a constant reminder that they’re playing not just for themselves but for those that came before them.
What better way to learn that playing in the Swamp is a privelege?
And what better way to teach them that it actually means something to be a Florida Gator?