From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.
» Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Jeff Demps missed the entire offseason while running track but officially joined the team on Monday in hopes of earning a roster spot and playing football in 2013. The Buccaneers have a roster exemption or Demps, who will have one full week to prove his worth and take one of the 53 available spots or else be released by Tampa Bay. Though the Bucs will certainly see what Demps can do for them, head coach Greg Schiano was perturbed a few weeks ago when asked where Demps was in the world and why he had not reported at the time.
» Former Florida Gators forward Cody Larson, who lost his scholarship and then quit the basketball team before the 2012-13 season but remained at Florida for academics, transferred to play for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in May and had a waiver to play immediately accepted by the NCAA this month. “We want to thank the committee and the NCAA for taking the time to look at Cody’s waiver,” head coach Scott Nagy said in a school release. “We appreciate the fact that this ruling allows him the opportunity to be eligible to compete immediately.” Larson will have two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but has not played college basketball in two full seasons.
» One of the greatest tennis players in school history, Jill Craybas has decided to retire at age 39 after spending the last 18 years playing professional tennis. One of two Florida women to win the NCAA Singles Championship, Craybas captured the title in 1996 while leading the Gators women’s program to the team NCAA Championship that same season. Inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2008, Craybas never won a Grand Slam title but advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2005 after shocking Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 in the Round of 16 that year. She also represented the United States in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “It’s a really tough decision to make because it’s been part of your life for so long. But I feel like lately my priorities have been starting to change, I’ve been starting to want other things in my life,” she told Tennis Panorama about her retirement decision. “I really struggled this past year with my tennis and how I was doing. I started pursuing some other things and started getting interested in other things, but it’s never an easy decision. You never know when you want to stop, but you kind of come to terms with it sooner or later.”
Check out 12 more Gator Bites…after the break!
» Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah had a busy summer, spending extensive amounts of time in both Africa and China, but is back in the United States preparing for the upcoming season. Noah told the team’s official website that he is recovered from the plantar fasciitis that plagued him throughout portions of the last two seasons and hopes to be rid of the problem for good. “Obviously I’ve dealt with those injuries in the past and I’m hoping it’s all behind me,” he said. “Only time will tell, of course. That’s the reality of it. I just want to be as prepared as possible. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But with no regrets, because I’ll know that I put everything I have into it.”
» Featured on the newest Houston Rockets billboard? None other than rising star and former Florida F Chandler Parsons. Speaking of Parsons, he recently dished some love advice to the readers of Seventeen magazine.
» ESPN’s Chad Ford released his first mock 2014 NBA Draft and slotted Gators F commit Chris Walker as the No. 8 overall pick. Ford noted that Walker “could be a lethal combo forward in the NBA” as long as he “improves his handle and jump shot.” Walker is listed as Ford’s 10th best prospect in his top 100, while senior center Patric Young checks in at No. 46 and freshman point guard Kasey Hill at No. 58.
» FOX Sports host/reporter Erin Andrews was photobomed in a big way over the weekend while on the network’s postgame NFL show, The OT. (Hat tip: USA Today)
» Check out this video of Atlanta Hawks C Al Horford and what he did in the offseason to train and get better ahead of the 2013-14 season.
» Tim Tebow is still trying to be an NFL quarterback, but it appears that no one in the league is biting, at least not at this time. Despite an overture from the L.A. KISS of the Arena Football League, which offered Tebow a three-year contract with the “possibility to earn millions,” and apparent interest from at least on NFL team that wanted him to change positions (according to TheMMQB.com’s Peter King), Tebow remains steadfast in his initial plan. And unfortunately, despite the Jacksonville Jaguars still looking terrible, the team is not interested in his services no matter how many people want to rehash the idea.
Kurt Warner, another deeply religious former quarterback who had to cut some grass in the AFL and NFL Europe before getting a second chance in the NFL, said last Friday on the Dan Patrick Show that Tebow should give another league a shot in order to improve his game and work his way back to the big time. “If that’s what your dream is and you want to keep pursing it, find somewhere else to play,” he said. “A key for me was to get reps. I needed to see things that I couldn’t see standing on the sidelines. … We know he’s a work in progress, but the only way to get that progress is to find situations and to play. … I would encourage him, whatever the opportunity is, to take advantage of it and go play as much football as you can.”
» Former Florida defensive end Thaddeus Bullard has made quite a career for himself as WWE superstar Titus O’Neil. Though he started out as a heel (bad guy) in the organization, O’Neil is quickly becoming a face (fan favorite) as one half of the Prime Time Players tag team. (His partner on the team, Darren Young, recently became the first openly gay active WWE superstar.) Out of the ring, O’Neil has a different partner as People magazine reported earlier this month that Young is dating reality television villain Omarosa Manigault of The Apprentice fame.
» According to the Wall Street Journal, the Gators are the second-most popular team in the nation based on a map of which teams are the most popular, per county, nationwide. Florida is the most popular program in 423 counties, bested only by Texas (543) and followed by Ohio State (376). The Gators’ domination within the state of Florida is a big reason why it is so high on the list.
» Back in April The Gadsen Times reported about elementary student R.J. Clark, a huge UF fan right in the middle of Alabama country who was wheelchair bound with a disorder known as arthrogryposis, which fuses his joints together and does not allow him to bend. The story struck two members of the FBI, agent Frank Langdon (a Florida graduate) and intelligence analyst Luke Jackson, who went out of their way to give Clark a signed Gators football. “It’s hard to be a Florida Gator when you’re in Alabama,” Langdon told the paper. “When you’re a kid, it’s hard not to follow the crowd. Just remember who you are as a person.” He and Jackson have also gifted Clark, who one day hopes to attend Florida, with plenty of FBI trinkets. Though Clark receives tons of support and love from the community, his principal Ed Vance had to jokingly lay down the law when it came to the boy celebrating his love for the Gators. “I have told him no alligator chomps at school,” Vance said.
» A pair of early-August college basketball columns on ESPN Insider listed two representatives of Florida as the best in their respective categories. Head coach Billy Donovan was ranked as the fifth-toughest coach to recruit against by Jeff Goodman ($) behind only John Calipari (Kentucky), Bill Self (Kansas), Sean Miller (Arizona) and Rick Pitino (Louisville). Additionally, redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith was considered the fourth most important transfer in college basketball by Seth Greenberg ($) behind T.J. McConnell (Arizona), Mike Moser (Oregon) and Rodney Hood (Duke). Three weeks later, Goodman also ranked Donovan as the No. 8 best X’s and O’s coach ($). “He’s the most well-prepared coach in our league on a game-by-game basis, year after year, in my opinion,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said of Donovan.
» A blowout in the ninth inning led to a rare baseball occurrence back in early August when a player who normally serves as a catcher pitched to a pitcher during a MLB game. That picture happened to be Los Angeles Dodgers lefty reliever Steven Rodriguez, who as of press time boasts a 3-2 record and 2.12 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 51.0 innings over 70 appearances.
» San Antonio Spurs F Matt Bonner, a notorious carrot top, is apparently a spokesman for a new product for ShakeDowns, which are baby carrots covered in a natural seasoning. Just watch.