A three-year starter for the Florida Gators who played under Steve Spurrier and Ron Zook, former guard Shannon Snell joined OnlyGators.com in 2012 as a football columnist to provide his unique perspective on the team. He has returned to continue sharing his musings through the 2013 season. Snell, who played in 46 games over four seasons and started 36 of those contests, was named a First Team All-American by Sporting News in 2003 and spent two seasons in the NFL.
There’s no two ways about it – I’ve been incredibly negative over the last few weeks. Not this time. Not after what the Gators did on Saturday.
I apologize to the coaches and players of Florida football.
Dating back to the LSU game, I have done nothing but criticize, put down and – at times – completely rip apart this team – coaches and players alike. I sat by and watched as the losses piled up, and my blood pressure rose with each passing game because the Gators simply looked horrible.
During the games, in order to relieve some of the frustration, I would tweet something sarcastic here and there in an attempt to draw a laugh – either from myself or my followers. But something really bothered me while I was doing it. It was almost like an epiphany hit me. I had become what I hated the most when I was a player: an angry fan who was on the outside looking in and being way too critical.
The performances were so depressing that even as I related to you all my perspective as a former player, I seemed to forget somewhere in there that I put on that uniform and faced the same criticism for four years, especially after losses.
There were many Saturdays that my teammates, coaches, and I took the field and didn’t come away with a win. In fact, I remember every single game I lost at Florida and exactly how I felt afterwards.
Losing a game and failing to create a positive outcome as a team simply sucks. But unless you were lucky enough to go to a top-tier high school and never experience what it was like to lose before college, you were used to it and knew how to bounce back. The worst part about losing was walking around campus the next week and either sensing or hearing the disappointment from faculty, staff, friends and fans.
It is a terrible feeling. It’s lonely.
Many times, I stayed home from class because I did not want to deal with that crap. It was not worth exposing myself to it and feeling worse than I already did.
Players read the newspapers and watch the highlight shows. In this day and age, I guarantee you many of them follow most of the people that cover the team on Twitter, too. When you lose, you are constantly reminded of it until you win. And when you lose five games in a row like these Gators have – something I luckily never experienced – the feeling has to be unimaginably depressing.
I can’t speak for the rest of Gator Nation but shame on me for being so judgmental and not putting these losses in better perspective.
I was too quick to call for new leadership and change.
Head coach Will Muschamp was right to single out a small percentage of the fans and tell them to “get a grip.” Many of you – myself included – have gone overboard in criticizing this team considering the adversity it has been facing this season.
Muschamp is the same coach that led last year’s team to an 11-2 record and a BCS bowl berth. You can luck into winning a game, but an 11-1 regular season is not a fluke. Muschamp got the most out of the players he had last year but lost 13 starters including his best offensive weapon, special teams ace and a ton of incredible defensive players. And then there’s the injuries this year; we don’t need to go over those again.
That’s not to say Florida would be a one-loss team right now if everyone had been healthy. But with a couple starters avoiding injuries and a capable kicker, the Gators would likely have already qualified for a bowl game at this point.
I would love to play for Muschamp now or 10 years ago. He is a man with a ton of character, desire and – pardon the pun – will. He has a will to win.
You just watched him to take a top-10 team to the limit on the road with an injury-riddled team and a third-string quarterback leading the charge. He held a Steve Spurrier offense to one touchdown – one that only came due to blown coverage.
On Saturday, these players reminded me and many others why we should be proud to be Florida Gators. I’ve already given my apology. Now, for some of you, it’s your turn.