Brad Beal: Freshman phenom
David Lernerâ€™s inner strength
Fall baseball recap
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CONTENTS On The Field
06 Gator Legacy 24 High School All-Star Football Game Previews 30 Gator Trivia 32 A Tailgaters Guide to Giving 38 Fast Times 43 Inner Strength
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08 Beal’s Humility Makes Chemistry Click 10 Tee Time with T.J. Vogel 12 Senior Attack 14 Men’s Tennis Profile Player: Spencer Newman 20 First Steps to Omaha 36 Volleyball Team Finds Fan Base
PROMOTIONS Amanda Liles Karen Jones Hilah Driggers Kristen Cokas
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GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: The SEC was one of the founding members of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS).
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GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
TOP OF THE CLASS
Marcell Harris headlines in-state prospects in Class of 2013
By Justin Wells Photo by Tim Casey
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: Donovanâ€™s fresh coaching style and recruiting skills helped to lead the Gators to the very top of the SEC within only a few years.
TOP OF THE CLASS
The Class of 2013 is already shaping up as a talent-laden group across the board in the state of Florida – particularly in the secondary. From Tampa Wharton star cornerback Vernon Hargreaves to Seffner Armwood ballhawk Leon McQuay III, there is no shortage of potential five-star candidates in the defensive backfield for next year. But if you’re looking for a smash-mouth safety, Groveland is the place you want to be. South Lake High School prospect Marcell Harris is just the man for the job. Already standing right at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Harris has the type of size and disposition that causes receivers to think twice about coming over the middle. However, as tough as he is on the field, Harris is just as low-key and humble off of it. South Lake coach Walter Banks can sing the praises of his star player all day long if you give him the opportunity. “Marcell is a unique guy – he’s very quiet,” Banks noted. “He’s also a very personable kid. When you try to give him direction, he’s looking you in the eyes. The biggest thing he brings to the table is that he’s so coachable.” Harris also happens to be one of the best junior prospects in the state of Florida. He wrapped up his junior year by registering 93 tackles, 11 pass break-ups, four forced fumbles, four blocked kicks, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a pair of special teams touchdowns (one on a kickoff return, another on a blocked punt).
“My performance this year, I thought was pretty good,” Harris said. “I think I could have some more interceptions. But teams didn’t really want to pass against us.” After recording six interceptions as a sophomore at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, the credentials Harris can claim on his resume should make him among the most highly-recruited players in the country at his position. He already reports offers from the likes of the Florida Gators, along with Florida State and Tennessee. Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and Texas have all shown considerable interest in the talented defensive back as well.
With a boatload of recruiting mail to sort through, and a “Who’s who” list of BCS programs after his services, Harris will be able to lean on his parents for support through the decision-making process.
“It’s better than staying at home and watching the game,” he said with a laugh. “Going to the stadium, you feel the intensity. You want to get out there and play.”
“They help me a lot,” Harris noted. “My Mom (Andrea Tate) has always been there for me. Taking me to practice, keeping me out of trouble and everything. I’ll take my Mom’s advice and my Dad’s advice and it will be alright.”
Even for a prospect who draws as much attention as Harris does, there is always room for improvement. Harris plans to spend the offseason improving his technique, and preparing for the smorgasbord of combines he plans to attend in the coming months where he will go up against some of the best offensive skill players in the country.
His father just happens to be former UF letterwinner Mike “Mud” Harris, who roamed the Florida secondary from 1994-97. Some observers have offered that the younger Harris is a lock to end up playing for the Gators as well because of that fact. But don’t be so sure. Marcell Harris is looking for the best fit for his college experience, which ultimately may or may not be the University of Florida for him. Whatever he decides, Harris will have the blessing of a strong support system behind him. “My parents have always been behind me. They have my back in everything I do,” he said. “I’m just very blessed for this opportunity. I just have to keep coming out here and playing and showing what I’ve got. Those are just offers, you have to keep showing [colleges] why you got those offers in the first place,” he explained. “They’ve always been behind me. They have my back in everything I do”.
“I think I’ll try to make a decision as late as possible, talk about it with my coaches and parents, and see what they think about it.” As a part of the long road to making that college decision, Harris has already been to a number of college football games this season. He got to take in “game of the week” showdowns in both Gainesville (Florida vs. Alabama) and Tallahassee (Florida State vs. Oklahoma) during the 2011 season. While these “unofficial” visits (which Harris and his family must pay for on their own dime) help a little bit in getting to know more about the programs involved in his recruitment, Harris said it’s mostly about going to enjoy the atmosphere in person.
Fact: The University of Florida athletics program took fourth in the 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings.
“There’s a lot of things everyone can correct,” Harris admitted. “I’m trying to get better and improve technique-wise. Getting stronger, faster and being more focused.” His coach, meanwhile, is a little more specific in the areas he wants the junior safety to improve. “Marcell has good speed and cover ability, but he still has to get better on his ball skills,” Walter Banks reports. “He’s a good hitter, but we want him to learn how to wrap up a little more too.” The improvements made by Harris in the offseason will lead to a highly-anticipated battle between the South Lake defensive back and top-rated running back prospect Derrick Henry of Yulee next September. They went toe-to-toe several times in a 27–21 win for Yulee earlier in the fall. In 2012, the Eagles will get a shot at a re-match at home. Harris, for his part, says he is looking forward to another shot at another one of the top junior prospects in the country.
“It’s pretty big,” Harris added of his battles with Henry. “We’re the top players in our class, and going against each other we get to see where we are, and what we’ll be going against in the future.” But will the Florida Gators be in the cards for Marcell Harris as well? South Lake High School has been good to UF in recent years, producing a trio of starters in Carlton Medder, Jonotthan Harrison and Jeff Demps over the last eight years. Harris could be next in line, but regardless of what he does, his is a storyline that Gators fans will likely be keeping a close eye on for the next 12 months (or more). GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
HUMBLE AMID THE HYPE
Freshman McDonald’s All-American Brad Beal ignores the hype and focuses on the game instead. Kenny Boynton came to Florida as a McDonald’s All-American. Without a whole lot of scoring power in the Gators’ lineup in the backcourt, he started as a true freshman. Brad Beal also came to Florida as a McDonald’s All-American, but the backcourt the true freshman entered this season was far different. With three 1,000-point scorers disguised as Boynton, Erving Walker and Mike Rosario, Boynton admitted he didn’t know what to think about the true freshman who arrived with as much hype as just about any player in school history.
“When he came, I pretty much didn’t know what to expect,” Boynton said. “I [saw] him play one time, but I wanted to see him play a little more. He’s blended in. He doesn’t look like a freshman. He looks like he’s been here before.” Beal, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound guard from St. Louis, kept to himself when he got to Florida. He wasn’t flashy or cocky or arrogant. He simply went about his business and worked on the things that head coach Billy Donovan and his teammates asked him to improve. The expectations and accolades he arrived with haven’t affected the true freshman, who said his McDonald’s All-American status in high school has nothing to do with how he plays in college.
“I think Brad handles it well on his own,” Boynton said. “I don’t think it bothers him at all. If there comes a time in the season where he’s struggling or he needs me, I think I could be the one to talk to him.”
By Thomas Goldkamp photo by tim casey
Beal’s humility makes chemistry click 8
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Head coach Billy Donovan has been thoroughly pleased with Beal’s development in his first few months at Florida. The 16-year head coach gives a lot of credit to some of the older players like Boynton, who were a little worried about what the star’s arrival would mean for their playing time and chemistry on the court.
Fact: Of the top 10 programs in the 2010-11 Learfield Sports Director’s Cup Standings, Florida is one of five to post a GSR of 82 percent or higher in 2010.
HUMBLE AMID THE HYPE photo by RODNEY ROGERS “There’s common denominators amongst players,” Donovan said. “I think Mike had this and Kenny Boynton had it. Brad’s got it. There is a respect level that he values the team’s opinion of him, and there’s certain guys who get caught too much up into that. But, I think there’s a respect level there about Walker, and Boynton and Rosario and how much they’ve played.” Beal’s style of deferring to his older teammates is actually something Donovan has tried to get him to change. But, there’s no denying the incredible talent Beal has as an athletic scorer with a terrific shooting stroke. His size and versatility also make him a very capable defender and a guy who can rebound, distribute and create for teammates.
“I think Erving and Kenny have helped him,” Donovan said. “I think the older guys have helped him. He’s continued to remain very, very humble in his role right now, and I think that’s been a positive in terms of building our chemistry.” Boynton and Beal have been particularly close. Boynton jokes about Beal’s St. Louis accent, and Beal looks up to the shooting guard who dealt with similar expectations as a freshman. Walker has also helped Beal adjust, and the three have shown terrific chemistry when they’re on the floor together. “My relationship with them is real tight. We’re like brothers, really,” Beal said. “They have a lot of experience. Just being around them, I’m learning. I’m kind of a quiet guy. I’m real shy, so I just sit back and watch things happen. I observe everything they do and see, like, where in practice what all they’re doing and how they do it and just take it and run with it.”
“He’s a very, very humble kid. If anything, I’m trying to get him to be even more aggressive than he is,” Donovan said. “Not so much scoring, but being aggressive when the ball’s in his hands. He’s been really, really good at that. I think he’s really smart. He has a high basketball IQ, but it’s his personality that I think has allowed himself to be embraced inside of our team. I think Brad has done a great job where our team feels good about him because of the way he is as a kid.”
Florida has taken full advantage of Beal’s ability to impact the scoreboard, but Donovan still wants to see his star guard get a little more involved physically. Beal had to replace SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons, a much lengthier player who crashed the boards frequently. That’s an area Beal is working on improving. “I definitely have to do a better job rebounding,” he said. “(Donovan) has just been on me about rebounding. I have to take the initiative and actually start going in there and battling a little bit with the bigger guys.”
photo by RODNEY ROGERS
While no one will argue Beal’s humility, he admits he knows what he’s capable of. After all, he was widely considered the best pure shooter in high school a year ago.
“I’m humble, but at the same time I know that this is an elite level, and I’m not here for no reason,” Beal said. “I know there’s some things I’m capable of doing.”
photo by TIM CASEY
Beal’s attitude is one of the things Donovan loves most about him. The Gators coach has called him one of the most mature freshmen he’s ever coached. In fact, Donovan has already compared the true freshman to former Florida star Mike Miller. Fact: In men’s basketball, the UF’s current six-game winning streak vs. UK is double the longest ever win streak vs. UK.
Donovan has pushed the freshman guard because he knows what Beal can do.
“I think clearly, Brad is the best rebounder from that position,” Donovan said. “He’s got to do a better job of getting in there, because he’s capable. I think it’s probably a little bit new for him in terms of what we’re asking him to do. We need him.” One thing is pretty clear: The more basketball Beal plays for Florida, the better he’ll get. For a guy who has already made a big impact for the Gators in his first year, that’s terrific news for Florida fans. There aren’t many players as young as Beal with his work ethic and maturity. GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
HOLE IN ONE!
Florida junior T.J. Vogel is set to compete for the Gators after transferring from Southern California to his home state. Photo by Tim Casey
By Jordan Matich
Tee Time with T.J. Vogel
Transfer from USC set to help Florida men’s golf team After a tied-for-eighth finish to lead the Gators at the Inverness Intercollegiate in October, Gator Country got a chance to talk with junior T.J. Vogel of the men’s golf team. Vogel is a native of Cooper City, but initially enrolled at Southern Cal where he was a Freshman All-American in 2009–10 and a 2011 All Pac-10 honorable mention selection. Here’s our Q&A with him… 10 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
You made the move out to Southern California, then you came back to Florida. Talk about that experience a little bit and why you decided to come to UF. I love everything about USC. I love the atmosphere. But all in all, my game just slipped. There were a few factors out there I promised I wouldn’t get myself into when I left. Coming back closer to home where I would be able to work with my dad every once in a while was the main reason, because I know he could help me get to the next level. Also knowing (head coach) Buddy Alexander, he’s the best in the business and I already had that connection with him. So I knew if I was to ever happen,
I knew where I would be going. I gave Buddy a call and it’s been great ever since. During the season, he’s shown me a lot, he’s helped me and he’s just a great coach.
Why play the game of golf?
I was the best at it. I played a lot of sports growing up. I played football and basketball, but started golf the earliest. My dad got me into it. He’s a professional golf teacher, so that helps a lot. I like it because it’s an individual sport. If something goes wrong you can’t blame others but yourself. I really like carrying that load. I’m kind of a perfectionist, and I like that pressure on myself. Fact: The SEC was established in December 1932.
HOLE IN ONE!
Is there any particular experience you had when you were younger ‘til now that made you want to do this for a career?
I just love the challenge. Golf, you can’t master it. It’s impossible. It’s one of those games where it pushes you to keep doing your best and to try to always get there, even though it’s not attainable. It’s really fun to see what you can become, where you started out and how you’ve progressed.
After you’re done here at Florida, where do you hope to be five, ten years down the road?
I have dreams and aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour. That’s the most important thing to me right now. I want to go back to California and hopefully play the Tour there.
What if one day you decide you don’t want to play the game anymore. What could you see yourself doing?
I guess that’s why I’m making sure I get a degree – so that I have that opportunity in case something goes wrong. I’m really into sports as a whole. I’d like to work with some kind of sports organization, in golf or football or basketball.
Florida junior T.J. Vogel finished tied for eighth at the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational on Oct. 25 in Windemere. Photo by Tricia Johns
Favorite course you’ve played at, and where you’d like to play in the future? Cypress Point – Pebble Beach, California.
Do you have any strange pre-tourney rituals to help prepare yourself?
I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary. I get really psyched up when I listen to music before I play. Anything by The Game. I listen him any time before I play.
How do you think your family and friends would describe you?
They would describe me as very motivated, very humble. I don’t like to boast about what I do. I just go quietly about my business. I’m a hard-worker. I know what I want and what I see myself as, and I go for it.
Out of the guys on the team, who has really stood out to you?
That’s a really hard question! I think we’re really close as a group. I know Eric Banks was quiet when he first got here, but now he’s really starting to get into the team. He’s been great. All of the freshmen have been great. Tyler (McCumber) is my Let’s do a few rapid-fire best friend. I knew him before. questions: your favorite Tommy (Stewart) is a little golfer, and why? Tiger Woods, without a question. more outspoken than I thought (laughs). All in all, the team Nobody can do the things has been great. that he does. Fact: The SEC expanded from 10 to 12 members in 1991.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
LEADING THE PACK
By Elizabeth Rhodes Photos by tim casey & rodney rigers
Senior attack Kristy Jaeckel is one volleyball player whose skill is not contained to her position as an outside hitter. The fifth-year senior possesses the athleticism to excel on any position on the court. She is the unique type of player who can improve the rest of the team’s performance by increasing the quality of her own.
“It would be hard not to recognize the play of Kristy and what she has done over the past several weeks,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “You can look at the hitting numbers, but again, we are looking at her quality touch on blocking, and her dig percentage and her passing numbers, and she is doing all the little things that make everybody around her better.” 12 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
The Colorado native was red-shirted as a freshman, a decision that she feels happened for the best, for both her volleyball and academic career. The fifth-year senior holds an upstanding 4.0 grade point average while pursuing a graduate degree in sports management. Jaeckel is also a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.
“You kind of get star-struck by All American players, and they play really hard, and it took me a while to adapt, I think, to this level of volleyball, and school, and working out and the overall schedule,” Jaeckel said. “I think that redshirting gave me a chance to take a step back and look at the volleyball from the outside before I participated, and I think in the long run that really benefited me.”
Kristy Jaeckel leads Gators on and off the court with stellar play and personality Jaeckel has taken full advantage of her fifth-year experience. She has already received many accolades thus far in the season. Jaeckel was named to the AllTournament team in the Active Ankle SEC/ ACC Challenge, awarded the tournament MVP in the Campus USA Credit Union Invitational Title and was selected to the All-Tournament team in the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic. Recently, Jaeckel was also honored on the Capital One First Team Academic All-District by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). This award recognizes individuals who stand out in performance on the court and in the classrooms, showing that Jaeckel’s academic excellence doesn’t go unnoticed. Receiving this accolade makes the senior eligible for the Capital One Academic All-America® ballot.
Fact: The 2010-11 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup position is Florida’s third consecutive top-four finish in the rankings.
LEADING THE PACK
The growth Jaeckel has shown from her freshman years to her current impactful role shows her dedication and hard work to improve every year as a Gator. “I think the thing that has developed the most since my freshman year to now is definitely just the mental aspect of the game and how you handle it”, Jaeckel said. “When you’re a freshman, everything is so new and you really are just adjusting and kind of surviving. As you adapt and as you learn more about the game, you can learn more about yourself, and the more you understand, the better you can use the information that you have to benefit yourself.” Jaeckel’s memorable feat for the current season came when she was honored as the SEC’s Offensive Player of the Week and AVCA National Player of the Week for her performance against Auburn and Georgia on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2, respectively. The AVCA National Player of the Week award was Jaeckel’s first national weekly honor, and she is the only outside hitter in Florida history to ever receive this recognition. Fellow senior Kelly Murphy became the second Florida teammate to receive this award in the same season, an accomplishment that hasn’t been achieved since 1998.
Another aspect of Jaeckel that makes her so special is how much she influences underclassmen to work hard in positions for which they may not necessarily have the strengths. Wise credits Jaeckel for her constant leadership on the court and how much she influences the underclassmen to recognize that there is no substitute for hard work.
“So much of her leadership comes from just her work ethic,” Wise said. “They (underclassmen) watch Kristy and how hard she works. She may not be the best jumper on the team, may not be the fastest player on the team, but she has worked her way into being the player she is right now. So, in many ways, they see how hard she works and her attention to detail. That helps the younger players, whether they’re front-row or back-row.” “I just think that you have to work hard to reach your full potential and to be the best player you can be,” Jaeckel said. “You can’t let yourself take reps off or take a match off. You always need to focus, and work hard and make sure you get better every practice and that’s something you have to hold yourself accountable for.”
The senior’s key to this year’s tremendous Despite receiving a wide array of prestigious accomplishments is to just go with the flow awards, Jaeckel’s selfless nature is evident of the game and to not overthink every play. as she gives recognition to her teammates.
“It’s an awesome recognition. Obviously it’s very exciting for the player, but also it’s a great reflection on the team and how well we are working together because volleyball is a team sport, and you can’t do it all by yourself,” she said. Junior Tangerine Wiggs felt Jaeckel was deserving of receiving two such notable awards in the same week for all her contributions. “I’m so happy for her – that she was able to get SEC Offensive Player of the Week and AVCA National Player of the Week,” Wiggs said. “She works so hard and does so much for our team. She passes for us, she digs balls for us, she blocks balls for us. She has a great hitting efficiency. So, we are just so grateful to have a player like her on our team because she makes us all better.” Fact: Florida is the only program in the nation to finish among the nation’s top 10 in each of the last 28 national all-sports standings
“I think I’ve just really focused on hitting what they give me and not trying to press it too hard to hit a certain shot or the right shot, but instead just to take a look at what’s there and go for it,” Jaeckel said. “I think that just having that attitude has really helped me to not think too hard overall about my game and just really go out and play.” This proves to be successful, as Jaeckel ranks in the Southeastern conference’s top-10 in three statistical categories. She is 8th in kills, hitting 3.42 per set, respectively, earns 4.17 points per set, respectively, for 5th in the conference and serves up .39 aces per set, respectively, to rank 5th in the SEC. Jaeckel has also earned a top-10 spot in the UF record books with 1,210 kills to register 10th all-time at UF, and 3,114 attacks, to record at eighth all-time. “I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far,” said Jaeckel of the 2011 season for the Gators so far. “I think that we are a different team today than we were when we first started, a different team than we were at the beginning of summer. I think we have just evolved, and we have worked hard to consciously make an effort to make the changes that we need to so far. We obviously still have a long way to go before December, but at this point, I said I wanted to play my senior year with no regrets, and I think that, so far, what we have accomplished is pretty awesome and pretty special. We have left some things out there, but it’s nothing that we can’t improve on before the end of the season.” Kristy Jaeckel has proved to be an incredible asset to the University of Florida’s volleyball team, and no doubt with her work ethic and determination, fans can expect for her to lead the Gators in the NCAA tournament. GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 13
FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE
Men’s Tennis Player Profile:
Sophomore eager to put injuries in the past By Chris Lee Photos by Tim Casey
14 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
How did you get started in tennis?
In the beginning, my brother was playing a little bit. I was about six-years-old the first time. I went to this family fun day at the University of Miami. The guy running it actually ended up being my coach years later. He pointed out my two brothers and me and asked us who our parents were. He told my mom to put us in tennis and she got me a lesson.
Why did you decide to play collegiate tennis?
I had been injured and definitely knew I wasn’t ready to turn professional yet. I wanted to get an education and knew what it was like to be injured. I knew how easy it could be to just get knocked off the court, so Plan B. Also, I can develop here. It’s a great place to develop. Fact: The men’s indoor track and field and women’s tennis national championships led the 13 Gator athletic teams among the nation’s top 10 in 2010-11.
FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE
So do you have a two-handed or one-handed backhand? Two-handed.
What was your best match of last season?
The main match was when I clinched against the University of Miami and that was the clinching match to get us to the next round and that was pretty cool.
Do you prefer doubles or singles?
I like singles a lot better. Doubles is fun. It’s almost like you don’t have to be so down on yourself, because you have your teammate. Singles is definitely what I like better.
Who is your favorite pro player?
It’s always been Leyton Hewitt. I loved Leyton Hewitt since before he was No. 1 in the world, which was a long time ago. People would always compare me to him and I just liked his style of play.
Do you have more of a return kind of game, a stay-on-the-baseline-kind-of style? Is that why you picked the University of Florida? Were there other schools?
One of the main reasons I’m here is because I know I’m capable of developing into a professional tennis player.
You knew Frank Carleton before coming to the University of Florida, right?
Yes, we were at the same tennis academy. It was the USTA Federation in Boca Raton. He was my bathroom sweep mate; actually I knew most of the team before I came here. He is one of the later guys I’ve known and that was like three years ago. Everyone else I’ve known since I was 10.
He is also your doubles partner, right? Do you think that helps you on the court having that familiarity with each other?
So the team aspect kind of threw you? Yeah, the team was a little bit shocking, because you could still lose and win.
You also have to play doubles, was that something you were use to playing before collegiate tennis? Before collegiate tennis I also played doubles, so that wasn’t too shocking.
What has been your biggest focus on improving your game since last season?
The main thing was to continue being healthy, because health was the main thing that was keeping me off the court. I’ve been working on my serve a lot. It’s a really important part of tennis, because it’s the starting shot.
What were your injuries?
For sure, you’re able to communicate better. Communication is key in doubles, because you’re not the only one on the court.
I had broken my tibial plateau, which is the bone that connects into my knee. It was my left knee and so I had to get two knee surgeries. In between the two knee surgeries I also broke my left wrist and in total I was out for 18 months.
What was the biggest shock during your first year of collegiate tennis?
During that time what were you able to do tennis wise?
It wasn’t really shocking. It was just different, like I didn’t really understand the meaning of the SEC and the meaning of being ranked in the NCAA tournament.
Rehab all day long. Sometimes I would hit out of a chair sitting on the court just hitting forehands. I couldn’t use my backhand because of my broken wrist.
Fact: A total of nine conference titles were claimed by the University of Florida in the course of the 2010–11 season.
Yeah, my return game is definitely stronger than my serve game.
What about net play?
It’s not like I’m serve and volleying, but I like to close out points at the net.
What weaknesses do you need to overcome?
Not overplaying. Just realizing shot selection and knowing when to go for certain shots.
You said the strength of your game is your return of serve, so do you try to be aggressive off the return or just get the ball back in play?
It all depends on the server. I’m going to be as aggressive as possible, with a bigger server you can’t take as big of cuts. You’ve got to block them back and neutralize.
So you don’t do a James Blake where you blast the return every time?
Sometimes you got to back them off and scare them a little bit. Then they will start going for more on their serve; the more they go for, the more that they will miss. Then you will get second-serve opportunities and then you can attack on those. So it’s just kind of a game you have to keep playing with them. GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 15
FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE
What about the mental aspect of tennis? Fall is a little different, though? Has that been a strong part of your game? Yeah, it was my first fall. I didn’t really I think so. I like to think of myself as being mentally stronger than the rest. I’ll be negative with myself a little bit in between points. Once the next point starts it’s done and I’m pretty good at letting it go.
What is your goal for this season?
I’d like to do whatever I can to get the team to win and that’s first. Whatever number I’m playing at I want to be winning. I set my goals very high. I just hate to lose, so I’d just like to be able to win every single match.
How did you feel about this past season?
Last spring I was kind of thrown into the season. I had graduated from high school early and was 17-years-old for the entire semester. I came off the 18 months of being injured and just got kind of thrown into it. I hadn’t played matches in forever, so my match play, my experience was low and my confidence was low. I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but I was still able to have a winning record. Overall, I wasn’t impressed with my season. This fall I think I’m off to a good start; I let a couple matches get away from me. 16 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
understand the importance of the tournaments I was playing, but now I know for next fall what I’m actually going to be playing for.
So where’s your favorite place to play? Definitely home.
I guess other than here?
They’re all equally bad. I don’t like playing anywhere. When your there you just accept the situation your in. Georgia’s courts are made of something different. It’s almost like your sinking into quicksand. When you’re not at home everyone is against you, which is fine. I sometimes thrive off that. When you have the home crowd behind you and you’re on the courts you practice on every single day, you know what to expect on the court.
What is your favorite thing about tennis? It’s really fun. I love the feel of the ball on my strings, because the racket’s almost a part of me now. It’s like second nature. The racket is part of you and when you cleanly hit the ball, it feels so solid and being able to run down balls and have exciting points…
Unless you lose those long exciting points? There’s nothing worse?
There is something worse. It’s when you don’t get the exciting points. Exciting points are fun, win or lose. The winning just tops it off.
Yeah. I think tennis players are the kind to have superstitions. Certain color underwear I will wear depending on the round. Certain foods I’ll eat and certain balls I use during the match. I can’t tell you all my secrets. If I’m doing something in a tournament I won’t change it up, there’s no way. I’ll eat at the same restaurant for 10 days straight and eat the same meal every day.
What about outside of tennis?
I play every single other sport. I also really enjoy acoustic music. I really enjoy (the band) “Slightly Stoopid.”
Fact: At the 2011 ESPYs, Florida received the Capital One Cup trophy and a $200,000 donation to fund student-athlete scholarships.
Florida redshirt sophomore attacker Hayley Katzenberger. Envision Sports Media. Photo by Jason Roberts Joel McHale performs during Gator Growl. Photo by Rob Foldy
Florida redshirt sophomore receiver Andre Debose. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida redshirt sophomore tight end Jordan Reed. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida senior guard Lanita Bartley. Photo by Tim Casey
Fact: In 1992, the SEC was the first conference to receive permission from the NCAA to conduct an annual championship game in football
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Florida redshirt sophomore center Jonotthan Harrison. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida freshman cornerback Deâ€™Ante Saunders. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida junior linebacker Jonathan Bostic. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida junior free safety Josh Evans. Photo by Tim Casey Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik performs at Gator Growl. Photo by Rob Foldy
Florida senior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis. Photo by Tim Casey 18 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: In 2006, UF became the first university in collegiate history to earn both the national menâ€™s basketball and football titles in the same year.
BATTER UP! The 2010 Florida baseball team. Photo by Tim Casey
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Let us help your business or brand grow. Fact: The Gators lead the SEC in team titles and Academic All-SEC recipients.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 19
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES
First steps to Omaha Florida baseball not satisfied with CWS Finals appearance By Adam Pincus 20 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Once the South Carolina centerfielder squeezed the ball in his glove for the final out, the dream was over. All the Florida Gators could do was watch. Watch their Southeastern Conference rival celebrate back-to-back National Championships. Florida players hugged coaches and teammates to cope with the crushing defeat, but there were some Gators determined to be the team the TD Ameritrade Park crowd cheers for next season. UF is hungry to complete the dream of winning it all this season. Right fielder Preston Tucker has reached the College World Series twice in his career.
“We know what it takes to get there,” Tucker said. “We still need to find out what it takes to finish. We can’t be satisfied. We are not going to be satisfied.” A potential trip to Omaha could be seven months away, but Florida baseball started preparing for the 2012 season with six weeks of official fall practice, which ended Nov. 4. Florida entered fall practice missing eight players who left due to graduation and the Major League Baseball amateur draft. Tucker was among a school-record 11 Gators drafted last June. He decided to return for his senior year to continue his pursuit of a degree and a national championship.
Fact: In 2007, the Gator trio of Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah became the first threesome ever to be drafted in the first 10 picks of the same NBA draft.
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES Florida senior Preston Tucker is on the verge of the school RBI record. Photo by Tim Casey Gators fifth-year coach Kevin O’Sullivan said a player of Tucker’s caliber keeps Florida among the elite college baseball programs. Tucker finished 2010 as a secondteam All-American, first-team All-SEC and six RBIs away from breaking Brad Wilkerson’s school record of 214.
Joining Tobias in the infield are freshmen Sean Trent at third and Casey Turgeon at second. Turgeon’s fall season ended Sept. 27 when he crashed his scooter on campus. Florida’s defense returns seven starters, but the story this fall was the return of the entire weekend rotation. Hudson Randall, Brian Johnson and Karsten Whitson went a combined 27–27 with a 2.73 ERA.
“People always talk about your incoming recruits, but for me to get a guy like Preston back for his senior year, those are the guys you need if you want a chance to compete at a national level year in and year out,” O’Sullivan said. This season, the Gators play a schedule featuring the nation’s top programs. Florida hosts Cal State Fullerton for a three-game series to open the season. The Titans finished 40–15 last year before losing in the Fullerton Regional. Fullerton has won four national championships, which made the Titans the kind of visiting team fans look forward to seeing, O’Sullivan said. Florida begins conference play March 16–18 with Vanderbilt visiting McKethan Stadium. The schedule does not get any easier. After a weekend series against the Commodores, the Gators travel to Columbia, S.C., to face the national champion South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina and Vanderbilt were two out of eight teams to make an appearance in Omaha. O’Sullivan said he would match up Florida’s schedule with any other schedule in the country.
“We are looking forward to it, but I think our players deserve to play a schedule like this. I think our fans deserve to see a schedule like this put together,” O’Sullivan said. “It is going to be challenging. We may not have the prettiest record at the end of the year, but I think we are going to be a better club because of it come the end of the year.” With the graduation of starting centerfielder Bryson Smith and second baseman Josh Adams, the Gators are going to have to replace a combined 326 batting average, 141 hits and 74 runs. Junior outfielder Tyler Thompson is penciled in as Smith’s replacement.
Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan has a deep and experienced roster. Photo by Tim Casey Thompson has been “snake bitten” with injuries, O’Sullivan said. In 2011, Thompson suffered a torn hamstring, a fingernail infection, a groin injury and back spasms. “I think moving Tyler to center makes the most obvious choice right now,” O’Sullivan said. “He certainly is very capable. We are hoping we are able to keep him healthy. I know he is, too. He has had some string of bad luck. Hopefully, he is beyond that.” While Thompson has the centerfield position for now, a battle for the third base and second base lasted throughout the fall. Returning players Zack Powers is competing at third while Cody Dent, Alex Freedman and Jeff Moyer saw time across the diamond.
Randall, the 2011 Friday night starter, depended on hitting the corners with his fastball and keeping pitches low in the strike zone. Now with the help of Florida’s vocal lefty reliever Steven Rodriguez, Randall may even surpass his efficient 11–3 record from 2011. The free-spirited righty from Dunwoody, Ga. worked with Rodriguez on the cut fastball, which moves to the left away from righties and in on the hands of lefties. The “cutter” is Rodriguez’ signature pitch. Left-handed hitters like Tucker had trouble hitting the pitch all fall.
“That is the only pitch I have been seeing,” Tucker said. “He likes it. It is a good pitch. If he locates it well, which he does with just about any pitch, it is a tough pitch to hit. He throws it low and into lefties. You are either going to miss it or hit it foul. I think it is another pitch in his repertoire and he is going to be even better because of it.”
In order to reach Omaha, Florida is going to have to depend on the freshmen class, Tucker said. Freshmen Josh Tobias also took reps at almost every position on the field. He saw the most action at third base, where his speed helped out his fielding range. With his speed, every ball the switch-hitting Tobias hit into the outfield seemingly turned into a double. Gators starting shortstop and USA Baseball Collegiate National Team member Nolan Fontana said Tobias has made a positive impression this fall.
“I knew he was a good ball player coming in,” Fontana said. “Since he has gotten here, he has only bettered himself as well as the other freshman. He has a lot to prove still. He could be a big part for us, if he keeps working hard and playing well.”
Fact: The 2010-2011 season was the second time in the program’s history that Florida matched the league record for titles in a single season.
Florida junior Brian Johnson is dominant on the mound and at the plate. Photo by Tim Casey GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 21
SWINGING FOR THE FENCES Freshman Josh Tobias could contribute at third base with his exceptional fielding range. Photo by Rob Foldy Relievers Anthony DeSclafani, Nick Maronde and Tommy Toledo left to play in professional baseball. The three juniors combined for 125 innings. Sophomores Jonathon Crawford, Daniel Gibson and Keenan Kish each figure to have prominent bullpen roles.
Last year’s mid-week starting pitcher Alex Panteliodis decided to skip his senior season to sign professionally with the New York Mets. O’Sullivan said a freshman may take the spot. Florida has six freshman pitchers practicing in fall. Johnson said succeeding on the pitcher’s mound for these freshmen uses more mental strength than physical talent.
“I don’t think it is more of stuff. I think it is all the mental side of things,” Johnson said. “Like if you give up a home run, make sure Strike 1 is coming in with any pitch you throw. Be consistent throwing off-speed pitches for strikes in fastball counts. Just stuff you might not have known in high school, because you are a little bit better in high school.” Florida junior shortstop Nolan Fontana anchors the Gators’ defense. Photo by Tim Casey
All-American catcher Mike Zunino said the freshman pitchers will need composure on the mound to surpass the poise of past freshmen classes. Maturity on the mound extends beyond the six freshmen pitchers.
This fall, O’Sullivan decided to lower Crawford’s arm angle, which has brought late movement to a fastball already in the low-90s. Zunino said all three sophomore relievers have a greater command of their fastballs. Despite the youth in the bullpen, Florida’s veteran players like Zunino took charge this fall in making sure the next Omaha visit ends with the Gators celebrating, instead of watching a celebration.
“We have got to figure out our bull pen, but as a team I like where we are at, leadership-wise,” O’Sullivan said. “The older guys have taken control of the program.”
IMAGINE THIS STADIUM FILLED TO CAPACITY.
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© 2011 Florida Lottery. “Five times” claim based on capacity of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field, capacity of 88,548.
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22 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
6/3/11 4:43:19 PM
Fact: The 2010-2011 titles helped UF sweep the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group SEC All-Sports titles
Florida head coach Billy Donovan & his son Billy Donovan. Photo by Rob Foldy Florida redshirt-junior defender Katie Kadera. Photo by Tim Casey
Fact: UFâ€™s athletic victories include 26 national team championships, 201 SEC titles, and more than 230 individual national titles.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 23
BEST OF THE BEST! Citra (North Marion HS) receiver Latroy Pittman does the Gator chomp beside teammate Sean Price during a ceremony to recognize their selection to the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game. Photo by Tim Casey
Melbourne (Holy Trinity) safety Marcus Maye does the Gator chomp after returning an interception during the Tigers’ 35-6 win against St. Petersburg Catholic HS. Maye will play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Photo by Tim Casey Thompson said once he received the phone call it was a no-brainer to play in the game.
By Andrew Spivey
High School All-Star football game previews Several players verbally committed to UF will face the top players in the country Under Armour All-America Game
The Under Armour All-American game is played annually at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. This year’s game will kick off at 8pm on Jan. 5 and will be televised on ESPN.
Bradenton (Southeast HS) cornerback Brian Poole, verbally committed to UF, will play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Photo by Andy Gregory 24 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
So far, seven of Florida’s verbal commitments have officially accepted invitations to play in this year’s game. They are Boynton Beach HS offensive lineman Jessamen Dunker, Marist, Ga., kicker Austin Hardin, Melbourne Holy Trinity safety Marcus Maye, Citra North Marion HS receiver Latroy Pittman, Bradenton Southeast HS cornerback Brian Poole, Archbishop Wood, Pa., tight end Colin Thompson and Stone Mountain, Ga. Stephenson HS running back Mike Davis.
“I knew for a long time that I wanted to play in this game, so once they called I committed to play in the game in the same phone conversation,” Thompson said. “I felt like that it was the best opportunity for me and I only hear great things about the game. I look forward to playing the game.” For Dunker, the Under Armour game was a simple choice because of the opportunity to play in front of family.
“I picked this game because it’s close to home for me and my family will be able to come and watch me,” Dunker said. “I also picked this game because it’s treated like a real All-American game. You get to have fun and relax, but also compete and play against some of the best in the country.” “Also, you get tons of free gear and stuff.” This game was a goal that Hardin set for himself when he entered high school as a kicker.
“It means a lot to me. It was one of my high school goals to be an All-American and I worked really hard for it. The camp that decided it had all of the top kickers from all around the country. Duke’s kicker, Texas’ kicker and Florida State’s kicker were there and I was able to outperform all of them for the spot.” “It was well worth it and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
Fact: In the late 80s, the UF Men’s Basketball team made three consecutive NCAA Tournaments under Coach Norm Sloan.
BEST OF THE BEST! Lakewood HS defensive end Dante Fowler, an Under Armour All-American, is verbally committed to Florida State. Photo by Tim Casey Taylor said pride and tradition were the reasons he chose the Army game.
“The game has produced a lot of great players in the past. It’s a huge honor to be able to participate in this game with some of the best players across the country,” Taylor said. Phillips, Taylor and Humphries will be able to use this week to recruit several players as three of Florida’s top targets will be participating in the game as well. Tampa defensive lineman Tyriq McCord, Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard, and Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) defensive lineman Darius Hamilton will all be competing in the game. Playing in the game was an easy choice for Hamilton as well.
Four of Florida’s biggest remaining targets will join Florida’s six commits on the field. Berkeley Prep wide receiver Nelson Agholor, Lakewood Senior defensive end Dante Fowler, Harris County, Ga., defensive end Jordan Jenkins and Palm Beach Gardens offensive tackle Avery Young will also be competing in this year’s game.
U.S. Army All-American Bowl
The U.S. Army All-American game is planned annually at the Alamodome in San Antonio. This year’s game will be played at 1pm on Jan. 7 and will be broadcast on NBC. So far, three Florida commits have officially accepted invitations to play in this year’s game. They are Venice defensive lineman Dante Phillips, Land O’Lakes tight end Kent Taylor and Charlotte (NC.) offensive lineman D.J. Humphries will represent the orange and blue in the game. For Phillips, playing in the game was a no brainer once he received the invitation.
“Playing in the Army game has always been a dream for me so it was an easy decision,” Phillips said. “It was my goal from the time I started playing football and something that I have always wanted to accomplish.”
Land O’ Lakes HS tight end Kent Taylor does the Gator chomp after announcing his verbal commitment to play for the University of Florida during a ceremony to recognize his selection to the 2012 U.S. Army All-America Game. Photo by Tim Casey Humphries grew up watching the Army game. He has seen how former players have participated in the game before going on to have great careers. “I have always watched this game and the tradition of great players playing in it inspired me to want to play there,” Humphries said. “I look forward to playing against some of the best players in the country,”
Fact: Since the year 2000, UF men’s basketball has won three regular season SEC Conference Championships (2000, 2001, 2007).
Tampa (Berkeley Prep) senior Nelson Agholor, an Under Armour All-America, runs for a touchdown during the Buccaneers’ 28-0 win against Tampa Catholic. Photo by Tim Casey “The Army game is a more prestigious event in my opinion and it’s an honor to be invited to it, so that’s why I chose this game,” Hamilton said. “A lot of NFL greats have come out of that game. I just think it’s going to be a great experience.” GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 25
BEST OF THE BEST!
Playing in front of the people who protect him every day was the reason why Tracy Howard chose the Army game.
“I selected the U.S. Army game as my mom had always told me if I ever got the opportunity to play in the Army game I should. My family appreciates what the Army stands for and I think I should play for the troops as they are on the battle fields for us. Plus, they ensure we sleep well at night.”
Semper Fidelis AllAmerican Bowl
The Semper Fidelis AllAmerican Bowl will make its debut in Phoenix at 6pm on Jan. 3, adding a new player to the high school All-American games. The game will be broadcasted by CBS Sports. Florida will be represented by Bolingbrook, Ill., linebacker Antonio Morrison in the game.
“It’s a great honor to be able play in this game against such great talent,” Morrison said.
Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson HS) running back Mike Davis, verbally committed to UF, will play in the Under Armour All-America Game. Photo by Tim Casey
Offense-Defense AllAmerican Bowl
The Offense-Defense All-American Bowl is being played in at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas on Dec. 31. Florida will have one future player participating in this year’s game with Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson HS) defensive tackle JaFar Mann making the trip to Texas
Stone Mountain, Ga. (Stephenson HS) defensive tackle JaFar Mann, verbally committed to UF, will play in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl. Photo by Tim Casey 26 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: The arrival of Billy Donovan in 1996 signaled a new era in Gator basketball.
ONES TO WATCH
LangS GIFT GUIDE Fossil watches
mens (with silver gator head) $80.
28 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
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mens (with colored gator head) $120
Seiko mens watch $355 (silver and gold)
Fact: Since the year 2000, UF Men’s Basketball has appeared in three NCAA Final Fours (2000, 2006, 2007).
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA
Florida sophomore setter Chanel Brown. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida sophomore linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell borrows Rob Foldy’s camera. Photo by Tim Casey
Florida redshirt senior running back Chris Rainey and head coach Will Muschamp speak during Gator Growl. Photo by Rob Foldy
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Fact: UF has captured the SEC All-Sports Trophy 19 of the last 20 years.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 29
THE CHOMP CHALLENGE
Gator Trivia By Chris Lee
30 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: The UF basketball program first began taking strides toward national recognition in the late 80s.
THE CHOMP CHALLENGE 1) When was the last time the Gatorsâ€™ football team had a losing season?
5) What team did the Gators defeat more than any other in bowl games?
9) What team has been the most competitive vs. the Gators in terms of win-loss record?
a) 1990 b) 1989 c) 2002 d) 1979
a) Maryland b) Iowa c) Nebraska d) Penn State
a) Vanderbilt b) Miami c) FSU d) Tennessee
3) What bowl game did the Florida Gators win more than any other?
a) Bacardi Bowl b) Aloha Bowl c) Capital One Bowl d) Florida Citrus Bowl
7) What team did the Gators play in their first bowl game?
10) Who was the MVP for the 2011 Outback Bowl?
13) Who was the Defensive MVP for the 2006 National Championship game?
a) Ahmad Black b) Dallas Baker c) John Brantley d) Jeff Demps
a) Brandon Siler b) Reggie Nelson c) Jarvis Moss d) Derrick Harvey
11) Who was the Defensive MVP of the 2008 National Championship game?
14) Who was the Offensive MVP for the 2008 National Championship game?
a) Brandon Spikes b) Carlos Dunlop c) Joe Haden d) Major Wright
a) Tim Tebow b) Percy Harvin c) Jeff Demps d) Aaron Hernandez
a) Sugar Bowl b) Gator Bowl c) Rose Bowl d) Tangerine Bowl
a) Notre Dame b) Tulsa c) West Virginia d) Texas A&M
4) When was the last time the Gators lost a bowl game?
8) How many times have the Gators won the SEC championship?
12) Who was the Offensive MVP of the 2006 National Championship game?
a) 1975 b) 1979 c) 2007 d) 2004
a) 1 b) 10 c) 8 d) 9
a) Tim Tebow b) Percy Harvin c) Chris Leak d) Andre Caldwell
Fact: The first NCAA Tournament, a run that didnâ€™t end until the Sweet Sixteen, came in 1987.
b) Peach Bowl c) Sun Bowl d) Bluebonnet Bowl
a) Reidel Anthony b) Ike Hilliard c) Danny Wuerffel d) Jevon Kearse
1-D, 2-a, 3-b, 4-c, 5-d, 6-a, 7-b, 8-c, 9-d, 10-a, 11-b, 12-c, 13-c 14-d
2) What bowl game have the 6) What bowl game does Florida Florida Gators appeared in the not recognize as having been most other than the Gator Bowl? played in its official bowl a) Sugar Bowl record book?
11) Who was the MVP for the 1996 National Championship game?
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 31
THE GIFT OF GATORS By Daniel Sutphin
A Tailgaters Guide to Giving Gatoropoly
Anybody can relive their college days, but with Gatoropoly, you can own them! Everything is for sale! The Swamp, Albert, Tigert Hall, Sonnyâ€™s, the Student Ghetto and much more are up for grabs in this Gainesville-based rendition. The game includes an alarm clock, pencil, gym shoe, bicycle and graduation cap tokens as well as relevant contingency cards!
Kraftware 20095 Collegiate Florida Gators XiDoc Docking Station
With Christmas comes a long, much-needed break from the daily grind. The only problem is waking up when you have to go back. Come 2012, wake up with pride to the Florida Gators XiDoc Docking Station. Featuring surround sound and a docking station, this radio lets you listen to crystal clear music from your iPod, iPhone, MP3 player or an FM station!
www.kraftwarecorp.com $99 32 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: In the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, 25 Gators won 15 medals, including nine golds.
THE GIFT OF GATORS
NCAA Gators Portable Picnic Table
It may be December, but for much of the Gator Nation, the sun still shines and the air whips with a cool breeze, thus, prime time for tailgating. With a quick and easy folding design, this Gators-clad picnic table is a perfect accompaniment. Developed with a durable aluminum alloy frame with built-in seats, the table provides sturdy seating, holds up to 250 pounds per seat and folds into its own carry case!
Tri-a-puzzle, the College Edition
When football ends, the weekends are going to get boring. Instead of flicking through the channels, try sitting down with the family and putting together a puzzle, a Gators puzzle that is. The Tri-a-puzzle has three puzzles in one – a football helmet for the first puzzle, extra pieces to frame the helmet for the second and a different design on the back for the third.
Fact: As with most SEC colleges, Florida has long been considered a “football school.”
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 33
THE GIFT OF GATORS
For a quick and painless twist off, Mytopoff is fast acting, a hit at parties and a great stocking stuffer. To use the bottle opener, simply push the cylinder down quickly and firmly on any glass bottle and off comes the cap – no cuts and no torn shirt!
Remembering University of Florida
While it’s fairly common knowledge that UF has a long history, some may not realize, just how far back it goes. With an up-close collection of historic images, Kevin McCarthy’s best-selling book, Remembering University of Florida Football, shows readers the rise of this leading football program with more than 100 black-and-white photographs.
The Power Hour Album
Christmas may not be the best time for competitive drinking, but New Year’s is right around the corner! For those feeling adventurous, try playing power hour with Ali Spagnola’s Power Hour Album. The USBequipped shot glass plays 60 one-minute party songs; as each song ends, you drink!
Of all the uses we’ve come to find for silicon, who would have thought pint glasses would be one of them. In attempt to diminish the ever-present “party foul,” Silipint has done just that. Made from 100 percent food grade silicone, Silipint holds 16 ounces of your favorite beverage. It insulates better than glass so it keeps your drink cooler longer and it’s FDA approved!
www.sillpint.com $10.00 34 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: The University of Florida basketball team’s inaugural season took place in 1915.
SCENES FROM THE SWAMP photo by tim casey
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photo by tim casey Fact: Overall, UF has won eight national titles since 2006.
M-F 9-7 • Sat 9-6 • Sun 11-4 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 35
By Adam Pincus Photos by Tim Casey
Volleyball team finds fan base Students from Tolbert Hall dorm provide loyal support Michael Raffaelli slipped on the wet Gainesville grass and shattered his leg in three places after chasing a football Monday night during an innocent game of catch with his dorm mate. 36 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
The injury was gruesome. Dante Frisiello, the dorm mate, heard his friend’s leg snap 30 yards away. Raffaelli did not cry, but needed Frisiello to help him up five flights of stairs to his University of Florida dorm room on the fifth floor of Tolbert Hall.
By Sunday, the fallen student was exercising his fandom for the Florida volleyball team at its home match against Mississippi State with a pair of silver crutches. Frisiello said Unroe’s text message gave Raffaelli a much-needed positive lift from his injury.
“I didn’t want to believe I broke anything, so I wanted to ice it in the morning and then go from there,” Raffaelli said. “I just slept on it.”
“He calls me and says, ‘Dude, Taylor Unroe just texted me,” Frisiello said. “Get your ass in my room right now.’”
After sleeping on his fractured leg and finding out Tuesday afternoon that he would wear a cast for six weeks, Raffaelli received a getwell-soon text message from UF volleyball redshirt freshman Taylor Unroe.
Frisiello did not have to travel far to see his friend. Frisiello and Raffaelli are members of the Tolbert Five, which is an exclusive group of 20 freshmen male students that attend home volleyball matches and live on Tolbert Hall’s fifth floor. Fact: The UF Men’s Basketball 1987 tournament run featured future NBA star Vernon Maxwell
FANDAMONIUM Left: The “Tolbert 5” have helped the Florida volleyball team at home and on the road this season. Some of the members even created their own band called “The Fifth Tol.” In a volleyball pep rally, the band performed its first gig in front of an entire dancing volleyball team and coach Wise. That’s when Wise received her own group shirt. Tolbert Five’s legend grew even larger during the Gators’ Aug. 30 victory against Florida State, Frisiello said.
“It was the first time we body painted,” Frisiello said. “We all picked our girl that was our favorite and wrote her number on our bodies. That was the game where it all took off.” Florida redshirt junior right-side hitter Tangerine Wiggs and the Gators have earned the admiration from members of the student body. The group’s connection to Florida volleyball runs deeper than the comical cheers and jarring jeers the freshmen lead during each home match. In a touching tribute, Gators volleyball coach Mary Wise points to the group sitting in its assigned rows in the student section before every match. She places her own “Tol 5 or Die” shirt on the courtside chair next to her. The group made these black shirts with block lettering to wear around campus and to matches. Raffaelli said Wise thanked them personally after one game earlier this year.
“I think the best part about it all is after one of the games she said, ‘You know, you guys really changed the student section here,’” Raffaelli said. “That is just a great feeling.” The relationship extended off the court. Florida players came to the group’s intramural volleyball matches to reciprocate what these freshmen fans have done for the Gators this season. This budding friendship went beyond sports as well. Wise helped Raffaelli in applying for a position on campus.
“She wrote a letter of recommendation for a leadership position on campus that I was applying for,” Raffaelli said. “I just asked coach Wise. She wrote it that night and faxed it out the next day.”
Tangerine Wiggs said, after the team’s win Sunday against Mississippi State, that Florida’s unique relationship with these students is beneficial.
“Before the game, Unroe turned to me and said, ‘I wonder what Tolbert Five is going to do today?’ They usually have awesome signs or face paint,” Wiggs said. “It is exciting. When we look at them it gets us pumped up, because we know they are just as into it as we are.” The group started by accident. The Tolbert Five was born on the first day of college for these students, member Jonathan Balda said.
Frisiello said he realized the importance of what the group was doing when the grandparents of Kelly Murphy, a senior on the team, asked to take a picture with the freshman during the FSU match. Frisiello, of course, had her number plastered on his stomach with a marriage proposal to Murphy tattooed to his back.
“Every single member on this floor opened his door on the first day and left it open the first week,” Balda said. “There was no way we didn’t walk by each other’s rooms. Sooner or later, we were all here to do the same things, for the same reasons. We are here to study, graduate and have fun. We want to do that together. It just so happened Wise approached Tolbert Five member Kyle volleyball was one of the many ways Kreiter after a match earlier this month and that we are able to go out together and asked if the group would be interested in making a trip to attend Florida’s Oct. 2 match do things together as a unit.” against the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Ga. Now nine home matches into the season, The team paid for the group’s gas. one part of the unit uses crutches to keep up with the Tolbert Five. Eight members started driving at 1am the night following the Florida-Alabama football game. After a six-hour trip in darkness and a hotel stay at daybreak, a hostile Georgia crowd awaited the passionate fans for the 1pm match, which Raffaelli said took more preparation than usual.
“I think it was my favorite game of the season,” Raffaelli said. “We put so much work in all of these home games and we put in 10 times more work in the road game and the reward was just insane. It was so much fun. All of the fans on the Gators’ side were looking up to us to lead the cheers. The Georgia fans were jealous that they didn’t have anything like that.” Florida knows when the Tolbert Five watches its games. The road match appearance was kept a secret by Wise as a surprise for her team. Two months into the season and the Gators expect the group to cheer at every home match. Sophomore volleyball player
Fact: Since the year 2000, UF Men’s Basketball has won three SEC Conference Tournaments (all consecutive, from 2005-2007).
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 37
CHERISHING THE MOMENTS
Jeff Demps leaves UF as champion in two sports
Fast Times By Thomas Goldkamp
38 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Photo by tim casey
Fact: The SEC was also the first to hold a championship game (and award a subsequent title) for football.
CHERISHING THE MOMENTS Photo by tim casey When the outdoor season began in the spring of 2010, Demps added two more national titles to his collection with a 9.96 100-meter dash and record-breaking championship performance on Florida’s 4x100-meter relay team. Last spring, Demps added yet another individual national title with a school-record 6.53 in the 60-meter dash. Before the individual accolades, he earned a BCS National Championship ring as freshman on Florida’s 2008 team, rushing for 605 yards and seven touchdowns. Demps is the only athlete in school history to win a national championship in two sports, and his teammates hail him as one of the most dedicated athletes they’ve ever known. On April 4, 2008, the Florida Gators football team was in the midst of a spring practice when an electrifying buzz rippled through a crowd of about 200 watching from the sidelines.
“Jeff Demps, honestly, he’s a role model for me,” sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley said. “That’s the hardest-working guy I ever met. Every rep that he gets in practice, he runs to the touchdown no matter where he’s at. That’s the hardest-working guy you could ever meet.” The senior running back has never been in trouble off the field. He’s been a mentor, a role model and a leader for the rest of his team. First-year football coach Will Muschamp has only had one year to work with Demps, but every time he speaks about his senior running back, his eyes light up.
Photo by ROB FOLDY
Jeff Demps’ blazing speed caught Florida fans’ eyes for the first time. He hadn’t just ripped off a big run for the football team, though. In fact, he wasn’t even on the football team yet. Still a senior in high school, Demps became the talk of the town in an instant with a record-shattering run a few hundred yards away from the practice football fields at the Percy Beard Track. The speedster from Winter Garden had just run the fifth-fastest 100-meter dash in the world in 2008, posting a blazing, wind-legal 10.17. For Florida fans, it was a foreshadowing of the type of career destined for Demps. After a fast four years, his career on the football field is coming to a close. The success he experienced on the track as a senior has been mirrored by his success in football. Successful doesn’t begin to describe his career at Florida. The senior won his first of four individual national titles in track in 2010 when he captured the indoor national title in the 60-meter dash with a 6.57. Fact: Ten of the 13 charter SEC members have remained in the conference since its inception.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 39
CHERISHING THE MOMENTS
Photo by tim casey
“Jeff’s an outstanding player. He’s a great teammate,” Muschamp said. “He’s been great for the University of Florida. He’s won a national championship individually and as a team as far as our track program is concerned. He’s got a 3.5 grade point average, he’s ‘yes sir, no sir.’ He works hard every day – gives you everything he’s got. That’s what being a student athlete is all about.” On the football field, Demps’ game is based on speed, but he is far more than just a fast athlete playing football. He sees himself as a football player first and a track star second.
Staying healthy has been a problem for Demps over the past two seasons, though. Ever since Gators legend Tim Tebow graduated, the Gators have relied mostly on Demps and fellow senior Chris Rainey in the running game. The pounding he has received has taken its toll.
Health hasn’t been the only frustration for the senior running back. After losing just two games in his first two seasons with the Gators, Demps has suffered through plenty of losses over the past two seasons as Florida struggled to replace some of the personnel from its undeniably talented 2008 and 2009 teams.
Demps started only five games in 2010 after suffering a foot injury that limited him for most of the second half of the season. Still, he led the team in rushing.
He has done everything he can to stay positive and upbeat, and that’s the same attitude he takes into his final game for Florida.
This season, an ankle injury kept Demps out of most of the LSU game and the entire Auburn game and limited him against Georgia.
“I’m going to give it all I’ve got. I enjoyed the whole ride,” he said. “It’s been tough. Anybody can win, but when you lose, it’s how you bounce back, how you face adversity.”
“He’s a constant home-run threat,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that can get on The speedster admitted the injuries the perimeter. You better be depth sound, have been frustrating, you better be in the right spot, you better take the right angles, because he’ll outrun a lot of folks. There aren’t many guys in the “I was frustrated because it was tough just country that are going to catch him. When watching the guys just go out there and he’s healthy and able to hit things vertically grind and compete, and I wasn’t able to be at full speed, he’s a tough guy to run down.” out there with my ankle injury,” Demps said. 40 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
When the Gators went 7–5 in the regular season in 2010, players were discouraged, and team chemistry was a problem as players battled back and forth and pointed fingers.
Fact: When the SEC expanded, they added the University of Arkansas from the Southwest Conference and the University of South Carolina.
CHERISHING THE MOMENTS
Demps, the quintessential team player, did everything he could to make sure it didn’t happen again in 2011, despite similar results on the field.
“Even if we’re having a tough season like we are, we’ve still got each other’s back,” he said. “We were there when we started, and we’re going to be there in the end.” Down to the final game of his football career at Florida, Demps wants to end with a bang. At Florida’s homecoming game against Vanderbilt, several former captains met with the team and spoke to them. They left the seniors with a special message that Demps is taking to heart as Florida approaches its bowl game.
“To tell you the truth, I’m just trying to cherish every moment,” he said. “I’m just trying to cherish every moment because it only happens once in a lifetime.”
Fact: The SEC was established when 13 members of the Southern Conference left to form their own conference.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 41
AGAINST THE ODDS
Senior punter David Lerner battles Crohnâ€™s disease, inspires others
By Thomas Goldkamp Photos by Tim Casey
Inner strength 42 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: In 2010-11, 222 University of Florida student-athletes earned spots on SEC Academic or SEC First-Year Academic Honor Rolls.
AGAINST THE ODDS
The former walk-on punter from Gainesville lost about 15 pounds in late July over the course of about five days. Hospitalized with the severe symptoms, it looked like Lerner’s career at Florida might be over before his final season even began. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but, against all odds, Lerner was determined not to give up his spot on the football team – a spot he had worked hard for years to earn.
“When I found out that I had Crohn’s, I was kind of upset and a little depressed and a little emotional,” he said. “People in the Gator Nation reached out to me.”
Toni Thorburn had never been an athlete or a runner. But, after running a 5K in September in Nashville, Tenn., she had her sights set on running a half marathon in Las Vegas in early December. Instead, the symptoms of Crohn’s disease that have plagued the lifelong Florida fan since 1997 hit extremely hard just a month before the race, wracking her insides with biting pain.
“I’ve just been kind of down lately, and haven’t been real sure if I was going to be able to complete this half marathon and how I was going to get the strength to do it and trying to find the light at the end of the tunnel,” Thorburn said.
Within days of his diagnosis, several teammates, head coach Will Muschamp and dozens of Florida fans offered him their support.
“What I’ve kind of learned over the last couple months is having this disease is almost like having your own little fraternity,” he said. “People that have it stick together and they support each other because we all just kind of know what each other is going through.” So when Moon reached out and explained his sister’s situation, Lerner knew exactly what she was going through. Moon asked Lerner to shoot Thorburn a simple Facebook message, but Lerner asked for her phone number instead. “Whenever I get a chance to pick someone else up, it’s like, how could you not do that?” Lerner said. “How could I not reciprocate when all these people have supported me? How could I not give back to them?”
Thorburn was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 1997 at age 27, and she has a very active form of the disease. Four surgeries, dozens of infusions and blood transfusions and structural IVs in her neck have left Lerner explains his ability to battle the brutal her with worn-out veins, scar tissue and Gainesville heat and the sometimes torturous severe daily symptoms. gastrointestinal pain to other people with the disease who reached out to him. Despite the days when he had trouble getting out of bed and walking around campus, Lerner managed to fight through the Crohn’s to win Florida’s starting punting job.
On Nov. 7, her phone lit up. One of her four brothers, Terry Moon, was on the line and told her to expect a very important phone call. When Thorburn answered a call from an unknown number later that day, she was shocked to hear Gators punter David Lerner introduce himself on the other end. Lerner, who was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in late July just before the Florida football team began fall camp, reached out to her to offer encouragement, and the two spent about 30 minutes on the phone.
“I told him a little bit about my story, and he shared a little bit of his story,” she said. “We talked about our doctors, and our different situations and different medicines. It’s really kind of funny; we didn’t talk about football at all.” Fact: UF is the only SEC school to place 100 or more student-athletes on the Academic Honor Roll each of the last 14 years.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 43
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AGAINST THE ODDS
The senior, who garnered a scholarship for the Gators after beating his Crohn’s to earn the starting position, said he knows people talking about their disease may not be the easiest thing. He wasn’t sure what to do when he was diagnosed with it, but the encouragement he received from others helped keep him positive. Lerner hopes others can experience the same encouragement by being open about their condition.
“To come out and say I’ve been battling this, that takes a lot of guts,” he said. “[Toni] put herself out there. How many people read that and then how many people are going to tell that to someone else?” After deciding to participate in the Zappos. com Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half Marathon with her local chapter of Team Challenge, a group dedicated to raising awareness for Crohn’s and colitis, she began her training. But, after running the 5K in September and raising about $4,100 for the half marathon, the Franklin, Tenn. resident hit a wall in her training.
Lerner’s symptoms have improved significantly, as he has undergone IV treatment once every two months to keep the Crohn’s in check.
The Florida punter’s message to others suffering from the disease is simple.
“Just keep on plugging and keep on chugging away,” he said. “There might be some bumps in the road here and there, Still, he’s well aware of the pain and but you can still do whatever you want to emotional stress severe symptoms can cause. do in life.” Since his battle with the worst of his symptoms during fall practice, Lerner has done everything he can to reach out to others and help them through the worst of theirs.
After all, Lerner and Thorburn are living proof.
Her symptoms grew increasingly worse and left her demoralized and depressed.
“He’s very down to earth,” Thorburn said. “He said he’s kind of unsure how to help people, but he knows that he wants to “I have daily symptoms. I have a help people. He is surprised how many very active, severe disease,” she people have kind of come up to touch said. “I battle it every single day. him or have put [themselves] out there A lot of it is mind over matter.” to get in touch with him, to not only give him words of encouragement, but to Lerner’s encouraging call helped provide the extra motivation she needed to continue speak with someone that they know or love that has Crohn’s, especially kids.” working toward the half marathon, and Thorburn plans on walking it Dec. 4. She Lerner said he has been in touch with knows even that will be a challenge about a dozen people like Thorburn with her symptoms. over the phone, and he’s reached out to countless others through Facebook “This is a huge endeavor for me to try or personal interactions. and do, so to speak to somebody that literally sprints every day and is out on the football field and in the weight room “When you’re on the Florida football doing that kind of stuff every single day, team, that’s just a huge tremendous it does help because he knows my pain honor,” he said. “A lot of people look up and I know his pain,” she said. “It kind of to us Florida football players. I kind of puts in the back of my mind ‘okay, I can have a gift, a great opportunity to try to do this.’ If he can do it, I can do it.” help some people.” Fact: UF posted a Graduation Success Rate of 82 percent in 2010 NCAA Federal Graduation Rate Data.
You can find more information about Crohn’s disease by visiting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America at CCFA.org GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 45
photo by tim casey
photo by Rob Foldy
photo by tim casey
46 GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011
Fact: The SEC is divided into two geographic divisions: the East Division and the West Division.
photo by Rob Foldy
photo by Rob Foldy Fact: UF made history in April 2007 by winning a consecutive national title in menâ€™s basketball.
GATOR COUNTRY | DEC/2011 47