CHOMPING On: Dan Werner’s swan song

By Adam Silverstein
March 2, 2010

Covering the Florida Gators as close as I do every day, I sometimes find the need to vent regarding some of the coverage, news, opinions and general sentiments surrounding the program. In those instances, OGGOA presents CHOMPING On:

Redemption.

When it comes to sports, that word is one of the most highly sought after experiences while simultaneously being one of the most rarely achieved.

Men like Scott Norwood (Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl XXV), Bill Buckner (Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series) and Chris Webber (Michigan Wolverines (1993 NCAA Championship) only dream about having the opportunity to right their wrongs, while few others like Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees, 2009 MLB postseason) have been able to overcome obstacles and achieve some form of salvation.

Florida Gators senior forward Dan Werner, in the last home game of his career on Tuesday, has a chance to do just that. No, Werner is not going to score a career-high in points (20), and he is not likely to have the ball in his hands for a game-winning shot (again), but he can indeed turn his legacy around with one effort-filled performance.

Read the rest of CHOMPING On: Dan Werner’s swan song…after the jump!

Since the starting six players of the Gators’ back-to-back National Championship teams left in 2007, Werner has been one of the most veteran members of the Orange and Blue. In that time, Florida has gone to consecutive NITs and are now back on the bubble with a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Werner is neither responsible for the team’s last two regular seasons (21-10, 22-9) nor the current one (20-9), but you can be certain he feels the onus for them and has for quite some time. It is no wonder head coach Billy Donovan all but demanded he see a sports psychologist to work out his issues.

Mired in the worst slump of his career, Werner is averaging 4.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and two assists per game this season. He is shooting .326 from the field and a paltry .257 from three. Those numbers are even worse in Southeastern Conference play. But none of that will matter in the least if the Gators are able to pull off a win Tuesday night with Werner’s help.

As I mentioned earlier, Werner cannot be expected to dominate…but he must contribute. He may say it “doesn’t matter what [fans] think or say”…but he knows it does. Werner may have tried to block out boos from the crowd during games when he air-balled or bricked three-pointers…but he couldn’t.

What he can do is change his legacy, alter how he is perceived from this day forward.

Werner will never be a game-changer, shot-maker or dominant offensive player. He will never be regarded as someone who has helped the Gators achieve high levels of success; in fact, many believe exactly the opposite. But he can be the man who showed enough gumption to suck it up, play top-notch defense, draw some charges (not blocking fouls), make strong passes (not unforced turnovers) and do the little things that matter to help put Florida where it desires to be – back in the NCAA Tournament.

And he appears to understand that.

“The bottom line is it’s bigger than just myself,” Werner said. “Our team is on the bubble. We need this win. That’s what you’ve got to keep telling yourself.”

While tickets to Tuesday night’s game against the No. 13/19 Vanderbilt Commodores at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center remain available, those in attendance need to support Werner in his quest. Cheer him loudly during his Senior Day introduction. Hell, provide Werner with the standing ovation you gave to Adrian Moss in 2006 when he takes center court with his parents and siblings.

Let him puff out his chest in a show of confidence while dozens of his family and friends (who flew down from New Jersey) watch from the stands.

When he makes a good defensive play or puts the ball in the hoop, raise that confidence with shouts of approval. But most of all, give Werner the farewell and support he and the team needs, even if you don’t feel he deserves it.

Maybe he will even surprise us.

5 Comments

  1. John Shanks says:

    If he can finish up the way he started in Jersey, we could make a run. The way they’re guarding him he should have chances. Without him we don’t get our one of two good wins (MS). Maybe 3 if it works out tonight.

  2. Frank says:

    Here’s hoping the Gators win tonight and that Dan has a role in the win. It would go a long way in helping a true team player to get the recognition he deserves. If the Gators should fall short, it’s just a game…ask the Haitians or Chileans if it really matters in the greater scheme of things.

  3. John Shanks says:

    He should do what others do when they’re struggling, use the glass.

  4. Drew 4 Orange & Blue says:

    It gives deeper meaning to the expression he’s open for a reason…all kidding aside he still gave the Gators his all and stayed out of trouble…here’s to hoping he finishes strong

  5. Tim T says:

    Thanks for your efforts Dan and good luck with your future endeavours. Hold your head up high and be proud of yourself. Very few people in this world are fortunate enough to play D1 basketball, and you did it at the greatest place possible. GO GATORS!

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