Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

When college football fans think about Florida Gators football in the 1990s, three names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and quarterbacks Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel. A three-time first-team All-SEC selection (1990-92) who finished fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting as a junior, Matthews set Florida’s career passing yards record, led the SEC in passing for three consecutive years and led the Gators to their first official SEC Championship.

Finishing his college career 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns, Matthews moved on to the NFL where he played for 14 seasons as mostly a back-up with Chicago, Carolina, Washington, Cincinnati, Buffalo and finally Miami.

Enshrined in the University of Florida’s Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 2002, he spoke to us on Tuesday as a precursor to his involvement in the 90’s Gators Celebration benefiting Desire Street Ministries during this all-important weekend in Gainesville, FL (more information below).

Matthews gave us almost 30 minutes of his time; unfortunately, OGGOA experienced some technical difficulties during the interview. Even though 50 percent of the conversation was missed, we were able to recover a portion of it for publication, which you can read below along with some summary answers to our other questions.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You spent 14 years in the NFL, first seeing extensive playing time during your sixth season in 1999 (167-of-275 for 1,645 yards and 10 touchdowns). What did it feel when you were actually given the opportunity to show your stuff?
SHANE MATTHEWS: “The reason I lasted as long as I did in the NFL was because of my mind. I could learn plays in a second, an entire playbook in a day and never have to look at it again. I was only 6’3” 190 lbs. at the most. Didn’t have the arm strength or the size to take a pounding, but when I did get my chance, I had some good games and some good moments, but I also had some bad ones. That just comes with the position. You’re going to play well at times, you’re going to play poorly at times. I enjoyed my 14 years in the NFL. In 14 years, I think I only played in 35 games, so I knew my role on teams – didn’t rock the boat – tried help the other quarterbacks and the coaching staff knew they could count on me.”

AS: With Saturday’s game featuring two of Florida’s greatest coaches, how do you compare and contrast Spurrier and current head coach Urban Meyer?
SM: “Urban and coach Spurrier are a lot alike – extremely strong competitors. However, they run their programs differently. Urban’s a great motivator, kind of runs a tight ship and keeps everybody in line, where coach Spurrier is kind of that laid back southern personality. His practices are more laid back and relaxed by comparison. The biggest thing is, coach Spurrier is an offensive-minded head coach where Urban is a defensive-minded head coach. Both of them have done a tremendous job for the University of Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Shane Matthews…after the break!
Continue Reading » Shane Matthews: “A tough situation for Johnny”

Meyer denies allegations of leaking Newton info

When ESPN reported last week that a man claiming to represent Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton asked the Mississippi State Bulldogs for $180,000 for his signature on a letter of intent during his recruitment from Blinn College, some media members and college football fans found a way to finger Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer as the main reason for the information being leaked to the media.

A full week has passed and FOX Sports, in an unrelated report, claims Newton left Florida at least partially due to being caught cheating in class on three occasions. Similar to last week’s reaction, some members of the media and plenty of fans have once again pounced on Meyer, claiming he provided the information sourced in the story.

Early Tuesday, Meyer emphatically denied through a University of Florida statement having any involvement. “Our entire focus right now is on preparing for our biggest game of the year against South Carolina,” he said. “For anyone to think that I or anyone on our staff may have leaked information about private student records to the media doesn’t know us very well. It’s a ridiculous claim and simply not true.”

Meyer also spoke with Pat Dooley of The Gainesville Sun about the both allegations. “Obviously it’s a joke,” Meyer said. “I don’t know anything about anything. I heard they’ve got me meeting with the agent and all that. I never met with anybody. It’s ridiculous.”

Unconfirmed Internet reports stated Meyer was a part of a conference call with Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen and former MSU QB John Bond and advised both men to speak with the the media about the alleged illegal recruitment of Newton.

The contention from some media members is that Meyer is angered at the success Newton has achieved since leaving Florida and is looking to bring him down. The coach denies that philosophy as well.

“We had a great relationship right until the time he left,” Meyer told the Sun. “Cam and I and his family always had a great relationship. I don’t know where this is all coming from, but it didn’t come from me. I know nothing about nothing.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Week 9 recap

With the 2010-11 NFL season now underway, a number of Florida Gators participated in Week 9 action, some of whom had an impact on their team’s performance.OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the ninth week of the season.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Team-high five receptions for 48 yards, two touchdowns (targets: 9, long: 22)
WR PERCY HARVIN, Minnesota Vikings: Team-high nine receptions for 126 yards (targets: 12, long: 28), fumble, five kick returns for 88 yards (long 22)

LB MIKE PETERSON Five tackles (three solo, two for loss), sack, two passes defended
WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills: Two receptions for 19 yards (targets: 5)
WR ANDRE CALDWELL, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle
S REGGIE NELSON, Cincinnati Bengals: Four solo tackles
DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals: Solo tackle
CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns: Three tackles (two solo), pass defended
LB CHANNING CROWDER, Miami Dolphins: Four solo tackles (one for loss)
LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Three tackles (two solo)
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: Eight tackles (four solo)
DT GERARD WARREN, New England Patriots: Two solo tackles (one for loss)
DE ALEX BROWN, New Orleans Saints: Four tackles (two solo), QB hit, fumble rec.
WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles: Tackle

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN — NO STATISTICS / DID NOT PLAY
C Maurkice Pouncey, LT Max Starks (Pittsburgh Steelers); G Cooper Carlisle (Oakland Raiders) – FB Earnest Graham (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

BYE WEEK
WR Jabar Gaffney, DE Jarvis Moss, QB Tim Tebow, DT Marcus Thomas (Denver Broncos); DE Derrick Harvey, DT Jeremy Mincey (Jacksonville Jaguars); DE Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers), QB Rex Grossman (Washington Redskins)

INACTIVES
LB Andra Davis (Bills), S Major Wright (Chicago Bears), CB Lito Sheppard (Vikings), RB Fred Taylor (Patriots), WR Louis Murphy (Raiders), LB Brandon Siler (San Diego Chargers)

NOTES
– The initial touchdown scored by Hernandez was the first of his career.
– Crowder accused Baltimore’s FB LeRon McClain of spitting in his face during Sunday’s game; it is being reviewed by the league.
– Pouncey left Monday night’s game with an injured lower right leg but would return to action and finish the game at center.

OGGOA RELATED: Week 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

Report: Newton’s cheating at UF led to transfer

The departure of now-Auburn Tigers quarterback Cameron Newton from the University of Florida in the spring of 2009 has always been somewhat of a mystery with different sides relaying their own version of the events. Did Newton decide to transfer because Heisman Trophy winning QB Tim Tebow returned for his senior season (as his family contends), because Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer chose QB John Brantley as Tebow’s heir apparent, or was he dismissed due to complications surrounding the theft of a laptop in Nov. 2008?

A report Tuesday from Thayer Evans of FOX Sports sheds light on the decision, revealing that Newton “had three different instances of academic cheating” at UF and even “faced potential expulsion from the university.”

A source told Evans that Newton cheated during a class his freshman year, turned in another student’s work after writing his name on it in the fall of 2008, and then purchased a paper off the Internet which he submitted as a replacement to the same professor who caught him for the previous indiscretion. The latter two occurrences of cheating allegedly came after Newton had been arrested for theft of the laptop.

“Newton was to appear for a hearing in front of Florida’s Student Conduct Committee during the spring semester of 2009, but instead transferred to Blinn College,” reports Evans. “The committee could have levied sanctions against Newton that included suspension and expulsion from the university.”

Less than a week ago, ESPN reported that Kenny Rogers, a man claiming to represent the Newton family, sought $180,000 from Mississippi State in exchange for Newton’s college commitment as he reentered Division I athletics after playing his transfer season at Blinn College. The NCAA has been looking into the allegations, brought to light by former MSU QB John Bond, since July.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
 

11/8: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

Redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, senior center Mike Pouncey and senior safety Ahmad Black answered questions for the media on Monday about a variety of topics concerning the Florida Gators and their win on Saturday over the Vanderbilt Commodores on the road in Nashville, TN. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

RAINEY MAKING MOST OF SECOND CHANCE

Ask an outsider about redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, and they will likely tell you head coach Urban Meyer’s concern about fielding a winning team was the reason he allowed the troubled athlete back on the field two weeks ago. Talk to his close friends, teammates and brothers and you will get a completely different story.

“It’s his attitude about the game,” said Pouncey on Monday when asked how Rainey has changed the second time around. “He appreciates it more just because it was almost taken from him. I’m glad to see that he’s doing well. We need him to play good every week. I’m just glad he’s back out there. All Chris has is football. He’s had a rough life. I think Florida has given him a second opportunity to do well at this sport.

“I was [worried about him]. Chris really doesn’t have any family outside of me and my family. It was tough on him because he obviously had a lot of time on his hands without being a part of the football team. He’s just glad to be back. He doesn’t say anything at practice. He just goes hard, and that’s how it should be.”

Meyer has been criticized for being “easy” on players who make mistakes with his detractors saying he has no control of behavior. However, to Meyer, giving a kid a second chance at a meaningful life has always been of primary importance. “Coach Meyer knew [about Rainey’s issues],” Pouncey added. “Him and coach Meyer have a special relationship. He knew Rainey’s past and his whole life story, so he understood the fact that this [is] all he has.”

BRANTLEY NOT BOTHERED BY REDUCED ROLE

With a lacking run game and struggling offense, Florida’s coaching staff has been utilizing freshman Trey Burton and redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed along with Brantley behind center. According to the player, he’s perfectly fine with taking fewer snaps as long as it helps the team win. “We had to get our running game going and, no matter what it takes, we’ll do it. I’ll do it,” he said. It doesn’t matter to me as long as we win games and as long as we fight for that spot like we’re doing for the SEC Championship.”

Meyer and Pouncey both gave Brantley their vote of confidence on Monday, calling him “the” quarterback of the Gators. “I guess that means I’m the leader of the ship – that’s the role I’ve taken on this offseason and all summer, coming into camp and everything,” Brantley said. “That’s the way I look at it – that I still need to lead this team. Even though I’m not taking all the snaps, that’s fine with me, I just got to be able to lead the troops and keep this thing rolling.”

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/8: Straight from the Gators’ mouths…

11/8: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Head coach Urban Meyer and a small group of players meet with the media each Monday before the Florida Gators compete in a game the following Saturday. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the event this week.

SUNDAY FUNDAY = BLUE-OUT SATURDAY

During his weekly Florida Football with Urban Meyer post-game program on Sunday, Meyer looked back at the team’s victory against the Vanderbilt Commodores with great pride – especially for the fans. “Gator Nation covered that stadium. We came rolling in there at 9:00 in the morning – orange and blue everywhere,” he said. “I even heard one of our players say, ‘You know you took over a stadium when they’re doing the wave’ – the orange and blue people. It was great, and I want to thank them.

“This team – we’re not a great team – but we’re getting better, getting better in all areas. I admire guys that fight, show toughness, come together as a team and give everything for their university. I’ve never really done this, but I want to make this the most intense stadium in the history of Florida football this Saturday. This is for the SEC [East] Championship. Get there early. I want everybody to wear blue – head-to-toe – including our players. Let’s make this one of those ones, when you get those great books about Florida Gator history, let’s put this down in there as one of the great weekends in Florida football history.

“November in Gainesville playing for a championship, this is why we’re all here. Once again, I’m going to go on record – I want this to be the most intense week in Florida football history. Let’s wear blue, let’s make this place nuts, let’s have a lot of fun with this, and let’s show up and make this one of the ones you put this right in the history books as one of the great days in Florida football history.”

STATUS / INJURY UPDATES

Discussing Saturday that freshman defensive tackle Dominique Easley was basically in the coaching staff’s doghouse and did not travel with the team to Vanderbilt, Meyer said Monday that he is still with the team but “has got to do things we ask him to do” in order to get back involved. He is confident that everything will be worked out in the end.

» Junior running back Jeff Demps – will play Saturday, how much is not yet known
» Redshirt sophomore DT Jaye Howard – “promising” that he will be able to play
» Redshirt sophomore left tackle Matt Patchan – seeing a specialist on his wrist due to an ongoing problem, likely out for the season
» Junior kicker Caleb Sturgis – out

CHAMPIONS

Meyer announced Monday that 18 Gators had earned the designation of Champions after Saturday’s win over the the Commodores. Offensively, Meyer named redshirt freshman tight end Jordan Reed as his most valuable player along with redshirt junior wide receiver Chris Rainey, freshman quarterback Trey Burton, redshirt sophomore WR Frankie Hammond, Jr., senior center Mike Pouncey, redshirt junior WR Deonte Thompson, redshirt senior tackle Marcus Gilbert, redshirt senior guard Maurice Hurt, redshirt junior fullback Steven Wilks, sophomore RB Mike Gillislee, freshman TE Gerald Christian and redshirt freshman G Jonotthan Harrison as his champions. On the defensive side of the ball, freshman DT Sharrif Floyd won the MVP award, while redshirt freshman linebacker Jelani Jenkins, redshirt senior DT Terron Sanders, redshirt sophomore defensive end Lerentree McCray, redshirt senior linebacker A.J. Jones and senior LB Brandon Hicks were champions.

Rainey also earned the Southeastern Conference‘s Special Teams Player of the Week award for his two blocked punts against Vanderbilt.

LEAK > SPURRIER?

When discussing redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley on Monday, Meyer said as an aside that former starter Chris Leak was one of the top three signal callers in school history. Asked to evaluate that statement later, Meyer said, “I go champion – champion – champion,” when judging quarterbacks, rather than worrying about who has won the Heisman Trophy. That puts Leak over current South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier…at least in Meyer’s book.

QUOTES (After the break…)
Continue Reading » 11/8: Urban Meyer’s Monday press conference

Tebow’s memoir to be published in April 2011

Publishing house HarperCollins announced via press release on Monday that it will release Through My Eyes, “an inspirational memoir by one of the greatest college football quarterbacks of all time: the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner, two-time national champion at the University of Florida and current Denver Broncos first round draft pick, Tim Tebow” in April 2011.

Like most do, Tebow’s memoir will cover his extraordinary life ranging from his unique berth and life growing up as a home-schooled son of missionaries to his career with the Florida Gators and introduction to the NFL with the Broncos, Through My Eyes will be co-written by Nathan Whitaker and edited by Matt Harper.

From the press release:

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to share my story of faith, family and football,” said Tebow, ‘”and look forward to taking readers inside my life, both on and off the field. As a kid, you always dream of becoming something great. Whether that dream is to become an astronaut, a famous musician, the CEO of a large company, the President, an NFL Quarterback or anything else, you will undoubtedly face all kinds of adversity on your journey. This is my story about how I was able to fulfill my dream and I hope it can inspire people of all ages that are aspiring to fulfill their dreams.”

“It goes without saying that Tim has inspired a generation of fans with his accomplishments on the football field as well as his devout faith and family values,” said Lisa Sharkey, Senior Vice President and Director of Creative Development who acquired the book for HarperCollins. “We are incredibly proud to help him communicate his powerful message of hope,” said S.V.P. and Publisher of HarperOne, Mark Tauber. “Tebow’s story is one that will find a wide audience for years to come.”

FOUR BITS: Weekend filled with wins for Gators

1 » The Florida Gators’ No. 18 pairing of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen captured the 2010 USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship in women’s doubles over the weekend, defeating the Clemson Tigers’ No. 5 duo of Josipa Bek and Keri Wong 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Complex in Flushing, NY, on Sunday. Will and Oyen got revenge over Bek and Wong, the only team to defeat them this season in their 11-1 campaign. Bek and Wong were victorious in Will and Oyen’s opening match of the season; since the loss they have won 11-straight contests.

2 » Having a more difficult time over the weekend was No. 1/1 Florida volleyball (22-1, 15-0 SEC), which remained undefeated in Southeastern Conference play after squeaking out a five-set victory (25-23, 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11) on the road against the Auburn Tigers (17-11, 8-8 SEC) at the Student Activities Center in Auburn, AL. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers sparked the Gators offense with a double-double on a season-high 15 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore right-side/setter Kelly Murphy contributed another double-double (her 10th in a row) with 11 kills and 25 assists; junior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel added nine kills and 10 digs, and senior middle blocker Lauren Bledsoe accounted for season-highs in kills (12) and blocks (9).

3 » Gators sophomore tennis player Bob van Overbeek won the Texas Invitational singles title on Sunday, defeating Oklahoma’s Peerakit Siributwong in straight sets (6-1, 6-3) in Austin, TX.

4 » On this day 80 years ago, Florida Field opened to the public with Florida taking on on Alabama. Though it would be re-named Ben Hill Griffin Stadium just under 59 years later, the traditions all began on this day. Here are just a few other things that happened in 1930: the Great Depression, Mickey Mouse was invented, Scotch Tape was created, Mahatma Gandhi protested the British monopoly on salt, Constantinople became Istanbul, Twinkies were invented, the first night game in baseball history was played, and George Washington was added to Mount Rushmore.

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