FOUR BITS: Jenkins, Haden, Moody, Graham

1 » Junior cornerback Janoris Jenkins realizes it is his time to shine in the Florida Gators secondary, and the Pahokee, FL, native took steps over the summer (including dropping 10 pounds and increasing his speed) to ensure that he is capable of playing the way coaches want him to. “I have to go out now and put everything on the table,” Jenkins said. “I’m trying to be the best corner.” Even his game play has changed. “Being physical at the line of scrimmage is a big part of my game now,” he added. “That, and coming up and tackling better.” Jenkins is also helping mold whomever it is that starts across from him this year in place of Cleveland Browns rookie CB Joe Haden. “It’s going to be some good competition. All of those guys are working hard and going at it. I try to help them as much as possible,” he said.

2 » Speaking of Haden, his mind may have been on money while briefly holding out for a better contract, but money is on his mind any longer. In fact, Haden is taking his five-year $50 million maximum contract in stride; he sees it more as a confirmation that he is financially stable for the rest of his life rather than rich enough to throw money around. “It definitely means a lot. I just know that I’m set,” he said, according to The Canton Repository. “I don’t have to worry about money any more. I just go out here and do what I love. After football, I can do what I do, have a good time, take a vacation. I want to set up a couple foundations. I want to own gyms, barber shops, stuff like that … just set our family up for the rest of our lives.” He continued, “One thing a lot of people have been telling me … is that 80 percent of the league, after 20 years out of the league, is broke or bankrupt. So one thing I’m doing with my money is, I set it up so me and my family and my brothers and my kids — if I have children — are set financially.”

3 » Injuries and experience have helped Gators redshirt senior running back Emmanuel Moody mature as he gets healthy and returns to the field for his final collegiate season. Now, he is less concerned with individual success and more about making the most of his year. “It’s my fifth year and my mindset has changed a lot,” Moody said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I’m to the point where I’m just going to handle what I can handle and not think about if I’m going to be a 1,000-yard rusher or focus on some goals that are far ahead. I’m just focused on taking each day at a time and having an even-keel attitude every day and, no matter what happens, just have a smile on [my] face. […] It’s about time I learned and change my character and change the way I approach things. Now, it’s to the point where no matter what happens in life, know how to bounce back with it, have a good attitude with it and not get down on myself … and know that football is what we do. It’s not who we are.”

4 » As OGGOA cited on June 1, former Florida RB Earnest Graham will be continuing his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – but this time he will do so as a fullback. The Lakeland Ledger caught up with him over the weekend, and he shared some thoughts on the change. “I’m prepared to play both,” he said. “Starting the season I’ll probably be at fullback, but you never know how things will play out. In 2008, I started out as a halfback and we had an injury at fullback, so I ended up playing fullback. […] I tried to put a little bulk on this year, be up around 230 as opposed to 220 or 225.”

Emmitt Smith apologies for omitting Gators

From the moment his Pro Football Hall of Fame speech concluded Saturday night, speculation surrounded running back Emmitt Smith’s omission of the Florida Gators when discussing his career and progression to the NFL.

Did he purposely snub the University of Florida, or did he accidentally forget to mention them due to the emotion and importance of the evening?

Smith took the first step in making amends Sunday, answering the questions head-on via four posts on his Twitter account. The following quote is an edited summary of his tweets:

Thanks for all of the good wishes about the Hall of Fame…need to say a special hello to my Gator Nation. I sincerely, sincerely apologize for not mentioning you last night in my Hall of Fame speech, Gator Nation. I just got caught up in everything. Pleaase charge it to my mind, not my heart! Once a Gator always a Gator. I loved everything the University of Florida gave me.

The Gators’ Ring of Honor member was also interviewed during Sunday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame preseason game between the Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals. He once again recognized Florida when prompted by Al Michaels:

“Technically my speech was supposed to be less than 20 minutes, so I stretched it out to 24…and I forgot one most important ingredients: my Gator Nation. And I sincerely apologize for not recognizing the University of Florida and Urban Meyer and Jeremy Foley and all of the Gator Nation. Because the Gator Nation truly helped me get on the platform on the collegiate level which led to where I’m at right now here in Canton.”

Smith concluded his interview segment with a Gator Chomp.

FOUR BITS: Thompson, buzz, Green, Lawrence

1 » Florida Gators redshirt junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson is looking to quiet the doubters from last season – especially those who said he had bad hands. “I don’t know where that came from, but it came,” Thompson said according to the Florida Times-Union. “I guess because I dropped the ball against Charleston Southern the first game. People started saying I couldn’t catch.” WR coach Zach Azzanni agrees. “Deonte doesn’t have bad hands,” he said. “Maybe he didn’t make a couple plays he should have last year, but he’s got fantastic hands. […] Catching the ball is a learned skill. He can certainly catch the ball. There are some details he was lacking last year that we’re going to try to improve and hopefully it helps him and improves him.”

Three more BITS on basketball’s buzz, Green-Beckham and Lawrence’s future…
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Thompson, buzz, Green, Lawrence

Was Smith’s omission purposeful or an accident?

When running back Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Florida Gators fans across the country tuned in to cheer on only the second player in school history to receive such an honor. Many were disappointed after the speech concluded and Smith failed to utter a single word of appreciation for the University of Florida, his college coaches, teammates or even the fans.

Plenty has already been written about the situation here from an editorial standpoint, but SPORTSbyBROOKS dived further into the issue Sunday and has concluded that “Smith purposely snubbed Florida and the [2007] Ring of Honor ceremony for one reason. His relationship with Steve Spurrier.”

Spurrier was hired as head coach of the Gators following Smith’s junior year in Gainesville in December, 1989. It was widely reported at the time that Spurrier made only a token attempt to ask Smith to complete his final season of eligibility with the team.

Smith has never forgiven Spurrier for that lack of interest.

From what I’ve been told, that’s also what led to Smith not show for the 2007 UF Ring of Honor ceremony, as Spurrier was also an inductee.

This has long been known as a cause of Smith’s rocky relationship with Florida; however, SPORTSbyBROOKS cites “multiple sources [...] including Florida athletic dept. officials” claiming that this is the exact reasoning for Smith’s purposeful omission.

Countering that argument, however, is former Gator Brady Ackerman, who has been told that Smith not mentioning UF was just an accident. “I just talked to one of my ex-teammates who is with Emmitt. He got off his script and just plain out forgot to mention Florida,” Ackerman wrote via Twitter. “I can guarantee you Emmitt feels bad about it. He will address it tonight in his TV interview.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida

Greiner dies, Florida basketball loses a friend

Former Florida Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner has passed away. He was 76.

A student-athlete from 1953-56, Greiner was nicknamed “the Gun” due to the fact that he was a shooter who loved to have the ball in his hands. He won the MVP award as a freshman and was the backbone to the basketball team for four seasons.

“I never have seen a shot I didn’t like,” he once said, according to the University of Florida.

After college, he continued playing in men’s leagues in Ocala while opening up what eventually would become a successful business – Greiner’s Clothing – in 1962. Greiner was also enshrined in the F Club Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Letterwinner, one who has “made major contributions to the University’s athletic program through personal time, effort, interest and many years of continued service.”

More than three decades ago, Greiner established the Ocala Tip-Off Club in order to raise money and provide scholarship endowments for the Florida basketball program; he did this while also serving as a member of the Gator Boosters Board of Directors. The club has allotted funds for more than a half-dozen scholarships to-date and is the largest of its kind in the state.

When UF decided to hire Billy Donovan as the Gators’ head coach in 1996, Greiner was there from the get-go to support the team and its new leader. He would meet with Donovan privately, attend practices and even take players aside to provide some individual advice when necessary.

And when Donovan temporarily left Florida for the NBA only to return to the school days later, Greiner was believed to have been a close confidant and perhaps even one of the motivating factors in the decision. Over the years, the Donovans and Greiners have kept in close contact and developed a unique and lasting friendship.

It should be no surprise that an office in the basketball complex is named after Greiner due to his contributions to the program over the years and love for Gators basketball.

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Greiner family and will update this story.

Photo Credits: University of Florida

Tebow shines at Broncos scrimmage, fans swoon

Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow stepped into INVESCO Field at Mile High in front of a crowd for the first time Saturday night. Needless to say, the 20,782 fans in attendance (largest number ever to watch a Broncos practice) were not disappointed.

Though the second-string defense was lax and the primary goal of the event was to showcase the offense (head coach Josh McDaniels said he was running “move-the-ball” drills), Tebow scored two touchdowns Saturday night – one through the air and, just as he did with the Florida Gators, another on the ground.

Read the rest and take a peek at video of Tebow on the field after the break!
Continue Reading » Tebow shines at Broncos scrimmage, fans swoon

Smith snubs Gators in Hall of Fame speech

Et tu, Emmitt?

Only the second former Florida Gators star to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, running back Emmitt Smith did not mention the University of Florida once during his enshrinement speech Saturday night. Jumping from his love, admiration and appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys to how integral his head coach and offensive coordinator at Escambia High School were to his career, Smith spoke as if he never even attended college.

Not only did Smith play at Florida, he broke the Gators’ all-time single game rushing record (224 yards) in his first full game with the team and went on to smash that record with a 316-yard game in 1989. He also set school records for rushing yards in a season (1,599), longest rushing play (96), career rushing yards (3,928) and career rushing touchdowns (36). In all, Smith was responsible for 58 Gators records in only three seasons on the field, many of which still stand today. And, upon leaving for the NFL, he received a place in UF’s exclusive Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame.

But apparently none of that even occurred. At the very least, you would not know that it did if you listened to Smith speak Saturday night.

There are two schools of thought on this snub: Smith was either so emotional and caught up with the event that he accidentally skipped over Florida (after all, he did memorize his speech and paused plenty of times), or he purposely left out the Gators due to something unforeseen. It is hard to fathom another player from a top-flight college program forgetting or purposely omitting his school entirely.

Smith is certainly not Florida’s biggest cheerleader, and his relationship with UF is not as smooth as some of his peers’. Nevertheless, he had millions of Gators fans cheering him on throughout his career and tuning in Saturday night to take pride in one of their own earning professional football’s greatest honor. He did not mention the school, his college coaches, his fellow student-athletes or the fans – not once.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is about a player’s professional career. One earns the honor by what they accomplish on an NFL gridiron, not a college field. Even so, to disappoint an entire nation – Gator Nation – without so much as a single word of appreciation or nostalgic memory is simply unacceptable if done on purpose.

Smith deserved his honor Saturday. He played his heart out in Dallas and at Florida. He is one of the greatest Gators to ever step on the field and arguably the greatest rusher in NFL history. His accomplishments at UF and the pride he has brought its fans cannot and should not be diminished or dismissed because of one particular speech.

What Smith said Saturday night touched millions of fans across the country. But what he didn’t say certainly had a greater impact on one nation.

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Continue Reading » Smith snubs Gators in Hall of Fame speech

Tim Tebow is bald, thanks to Broncos teammates

Whether you enjoy rookie hazing or think it is a juvenile practice, you have to appreciate what the Denver Broncos‘ veterans did to rookie quarterback Tim Tebow on Saturday. Looks like Jockey and Nike will have to wait a few months before using the former Florida Gators star for any endorsement photos. Welcome to the NFL, kid.

The goal, according to The Denver Post was to make Tebow look like the Statue of Liberty. “It was my vision,” linebacker Wesley Woodyard (a Kentucky alum) said.

As expected, Tebow took the hazing in stride. “I just took it, tried to be a good sport with it,” Tebow said. “It was fun, you know? I think all the rookies had a good time with it. It was something to give everybody a laugh, something also to build chemistry.”

Top picture courtesy of running back LenDale White. “Most people thought T2 wore a halo anyway, and now it’s just official,” White said via Twitter.

Other Photo Credits: Karl Gehring/The Denver Post

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