LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

Back in Gainesville, FL over the weekend to be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class as a Gator Great, former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson is enjoying his offseason while he waits for the NFL lockout situation to be settled so he can play football (hopefully) with the Atlanta Falcons next season.

Working out in Jacksonville, FL, Peterson sat down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview Tuesday afternoon. A first-team All-American in 1998 and second-team All-Pro selection in 2005 who won a pair of Southeastern Conference Championships (1995-96) and a National Championship (1996) with Florida, he discussed at length his decision to play for the Gators, college career, NFL career, hall of fame induction, recent meeting with the team and foundation he began to help underprivileged families in both Gainesville and Atlanta, GA.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You were born and grew up in Alachua and Gainesville. How long after Florida offered you a scholarship did it take for you to give them your commitment?
MIKE PETERSON: “Not too long. The thing about it is: I never knew that I would go to Florida. I guess being from that area, you always say you’re going to leave home and go somewhere else. At the time, Coach Ron Zook was the linebacker coach and also the recruiting coordinator, so he convinced me to come on a visit. Once I came on a visit, man, it made no sense for me to go anywhere else. I had everything right there in my backyard. Shortly after they offered me the scholarship, I gave them my commitment.”

AS: Was your goal growing up to play for the Gators? Was there ever a time where you thought that might not happen or you might go somewhere else?
MP: “I was high on Michigan. Growing up, I said I wanted to get away. I went to high school there, elementary school, knew everything there, knew everybody there. I just considered I was going somewhere else. I visited Michigan – I was high on Michigan and Clemson – those were probably my top two. I was a quarterback coming out [of high school] and those were the two Division I schools that were going to give me a shot at quarterback. Once I visited Florida, man, it was hands-down where I needed to be.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Mike Peterson…after the break!
Continue Reading » LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

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FOUR BITS: Driskel, O’Day, Tebow, Final Four

1 » Florida Gators five-star quarterback commitment Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) was named Sports Illustrated’s High School Player of the Week on Tuesday. Driskel, who compares his style of play to Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, said the opportunity to play for Florida was too much to turn down. “It’s a great academic school,” he said. “They have a great football program. They’re always gonna have the best athletes and they’re always gonna be competitors.” Driskel accounted for 346 total yards and four touchdowns on Friday to earn SI’s honor; on the season he’s posted 1,205 passing yards and 10 touchdowns along with 881 rushing yards and 13 scores.

2 » Former Florida pitcher Darren O’Day, who is currently working in relief for the Texas Rangers, will play a significant role with the team during its first World Series appearance in franchise history. “You’re always confident in your ability, but it’s hard to see the major leagues and World Series from a walk-on tryout in college,” O’Day told The Florida Times-Union. “You never know what you can do. You just got to keep trying.”

3 » With the Denver Broncos set to fly to London, England, later this week to participate in the NFL’s annual game overseas, rookie QB Tim Tebow (though not a starter) was the object of the British press’ affection during a teleconference on Tuesday. Tebow touched on a number of topics during the press call including what he would normally be doing for Halloween, how he feels about sitting behind starting QB Kyle Orton and how important it is for an athlete to send positive messages to the public.

4 » Answering a number of Southeastern Conference basketball questions on Tuesday, ESPN Insider’s LaRue Cook contends that the Gators are indeed a legitimate Final Four contender this season. Citing the fact that every returning starter scores in double digits and that sophomore forward Erik Murphy will emerge as “the surprise player of the season,” Cook thinks the biggest question surrounding Florida is its defense (which allowed 94.9 points per 100 possessions, 67th in the nation last year). Freshman power forward Patric Young should help the team defensively, while freshman F Casey Prather will be able to add some much-needed depth to the bench. Cook also notes that UF has a solid chance to reach No. 1 in the country early in the season if it can go at least 3-1 in its four tough nonconference games against Ohio State, Florida State, Kansas State and Xavier.

Photo Credit: ESPN

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