Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

With Saturday being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he is releasing a brand new book the very same day, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Jack Youngblood sat down with us recently for an exclusive and extensive hour-long interview about his life and career.

Click here to read an OGGOA exclusive excerpt from Because It Was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood while learning more about the book.

The first University of Florida student-athlete to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Youngblood is also a member of Florida’s Ring of Honor, the College Football Hall of Fame and the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. He has as accomplished of a career as any player who has put on the orange and blue of the Gators after being named first-team All-SEC and All-America in 1970 and also being selected as the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft.

Youngblood went on to be named to seven Pro Bowls and be selected as a first-team All-Pro five times while also winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons (1975-76) and the St. Louis RamsMost Value Player award three times (1975-76, 1979). He played in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl and had his No. 85 retired by St. Louis prior to being inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame in 2001.

Since retiring for the game of football, Youngblood has done some acting work, served as an analyst with numerous media outlets, and co-hosted Wal-Mart’s Great Outdoors program, which used to air on ESPN on Saturday mornings. He also wrote a biography, has held a number of football administration jobs and continues to work to this day.

OGGOA’s three-part interview with Youngblood covers his college days and professional career while also highlighting some interesting stories and moments in his life.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school in Monticello, FL, you were a lot closer distance-wise to Florida State than Florida. Why did you end up choosing to play for the Gators and how did that recruiting process unfold for you?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “First of all, there was no recruiting process. [Laughing] That’s the crazy part about it. We were 25 miles from Tallahassee and we had a pretty good little football team back in 1966. We won the state championship. You would’ve thought we would’ve had some recruiting going on there. In all honesty, [there was] very little. I had no conscious idea that I was ever going to get an opportunity to play at the next level until Florida came up to me when we were celebrating after the championship game. They asked me if I wanted to come play football for the University of Florida.”

AS: Looking at recruiting as it stands today – with so many evaluation camps, services rating kids and tons of exposure – are you envious of how much attention high school players get or are you happy with how it used to work?
JY: “It’s a totally different world today. Our media contingent is just outrageous. You start tracking kids as they’re in 9th and 10th grade. [Laughing] I guess it’s because it is so expansive that you can do it today whereas in the past, it was a physical job literally.”

AS: Do you think there is a lot more pressure on high school kids these day with such high expectations at a young age? Perhaps they don’t get as much time to develop and become better players without scrutiny from the get-go?
JY: “It does put a tremendous amount of pressure on. A lot of them see an opportunity or think there is an opportunity where they can go and be like one of the ‘idols’ they watch on television and see play on Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t know if it’s going to get larger and larger as we move forward, but it probably will.”

AS: Coming out of high school, you were primarily an offensive lineman and linebacker. When Florida’s coaches wanted to move you to defensive line right away, what did you think about that? How difficult was the transition not only from high school to college but also from linebacker to defensive line?
JY: “First of all, it broke my heart when they told me that I was not going to be the middle linebacker. We had an All-American out of Tampa – Mike Kelly – Kelly was destined to be the middle linebacker. At 6’4” and 200 lbs. by my sophomore year, I had put on about 15 pounds, that’s a little gangly to be trying to play middle linebacker. They decided to put my hand on the ground and see what kind of skills I had there. It was a significant change, there was no question. The toughest part was having to put on muscle and strength so that I could play. I had some of the natural quickness and speed – I could run – but it was the size that was the hindrance. When you line up in front of Jim Yarbrough your first time on the practice field and you line up in front of him during a stand-up defensive end simulation. I got down in a two-point stance in front of Yarbrough and I still had to look up to him. [Laughing] That’s a scary thought.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!

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4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,'” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. […] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.'”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

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Carter (1/2): “It’s the kind of pressure you want.”

There are few former Florida Gators football players more accomplished than defensive end Kevin Carter. A three-time Southeastern Conference champion who was named first-team All-SEC twice (1993-94) and earned first-team All-American honors his senior year (1994), Carter is a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame (as a Gator Great) and went on to a storied 14-year NFL career.

After being selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the first round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, Carter ended up a two-time Pro Bowler (1999, 2002) who was named the Rams’ most valuable player in 1998 and won Super Bowl XXXIV.

The consummate team player, Carter played both end and tackle in the NFL and registered 104.5 career sacks including a league-high 17 during St. Louis’ 1999 Super Bowl run. He never missed a game due to injury or otherwise and retired from the NFL after fulfilling his dreams and earning the immense respect of his peers.

Last week, Carter sat down with OGGOA for a 45-minute exclusive interview that touched on his time at Florida, extensive NFL career, charitable efforts and new gig as a television analyst for the SEC Gridiron Live program. OGGOA caught up with Carter while at his home and, even though he was in the middle of getting a brand new deck built, he stepped inside to reminisce about his career and look ahead to new beginnings.

This is part one of our interview with Carter; the second half will be posted Saturday.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You were born in Miami and grew up living in Tallahassee. What was it that got you to end up playing at Florida rather than for Miami or Florida State?
KEVIN CARTER: “Growing up, I didn’t really grow up a Seminoles fan – I actually grew up a big Georgia Bulldogs fan as a kid, when Georgia won the national championship with Hershel Walker back in 1981. That was more of who I followed as far as being a fan. When it came time for me to go to school, I went to a couple of game at Florida State, took a visit there, got to know some of the players and knew a lot of the guys who were going to go there, but it just never felt like home. It felt too much like being at home. For me, I was looking to kind of get away, be on my own but still close enough for mom’s cooking.

“Academically, Florida State didn’t really have what I wanted to major in. I wanted to do something in the medical field, something medical science-related, possibly pharmacy. I wanted to be at a place that had not only everything that I wanted in a football school but also everything that I needed for my life, academically as well. For me it came down to Notre Dame and Florida. When I met Coach [Steve] Spurrier, I was pretty sold after I talked to him. I was really impressed just by the man he was, his candor and how he lived his life. I liked his style. He was a little cocky – not arrogant but just sure, very process-oriented and driven. I was really impressed by that at 17-years-old. He sold me.”

AS: Your career with Florida speaks for itself, but almost every former Gator I talk to has one game where they felt they performed on a different level that really sticks out in their mind. Which one was that for you?
KC: “The Tennessee game in Knoxville my senior year, 1994, when we went up to Neyland Stadium. They had a big, strong offensive line with all of these big, big guys and [the media was] talking about how this offensive line was going to overpower us and how James Stewart was going to have a big game against us. They were the favorite in the SEC East, and we had just come off of a good year, but a shootout in The Swamp a year prior. We went up there; we took it as a personal challenge. Like I said, we were supposedly outmatched, upfront especially. We took it upon ourselves – me and Ellis Johnson and Henry McMillan, Johnny Church, Mark Campbell – we really took it upon ourselves to go out there and shut up all the critics, come out and really lead the way on defense. We actually ended up winning that game 31-0, so it was a pretty dominating performance on defense.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Kevin Carter…after the break!
Continue Reading » Carter (1/2): “It’s the kind of pressure you want.”

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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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Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

Usually we have to convince our interview subjects to sit down and talk with us for a half hour. When it came to former Florida Gators now Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, he had nothing but time while in the middle of a 22-hour drive from Buffalo, NY, to Dallas, TX, and in desperate need of some entertainment.

Catching up with him 14 hours into his trip somewhere in Memphis, TN, OGGOA spoke with Nelson about everything from his family growing up to what he thinks about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp and the future of quarterback John Brantley. He was honest and candid, as expected, and gave us a good look into the journey from high school star to solid college contributor to NFL undrafted free agent.

Nelson hauled in 46 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns during his Florida career. As a rookie with Buffalo in 2010, he matched half that total with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns (in consecutive games).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You’re one of eight children…where do you fall age-wise and what was it like growing up with so many siblings?
DAVID NELSON: “I’m actually the oldest of eight. Growing up there was only three of us – me and two of my younger brothers. My mom and dad were together and it was just us three. We were always real close, always competed and always playing sports and video games and trying to beat each other. We would fight and argue like brothers do, but looking back I cherish those times with my brothers more than anything. I always had a friend and brother to play with, always a partner to go out and do stuff with. It wasn’t until my mom and dad got divorced and both of them got remarried and had extra kids. My mom had three extra kids and my dad had two extra kids. My youngest sister right now is like three years old.”

AS: Christmas and Thanksgiving must be interesting then…
DN: “It is. It is. It’s a lot of fun though. It keeps it interesting and it keeps it fun.”

AS: What was it about Florida that made you decide to attend there over Notre Dame or staying in-state with Texas?
DN: “Growing up I never really knew much about Florida. I had seen them on TV every once in a while, when they were playing a bowl game or playing Florida State or something like that. I was never really a big fan growing up. I was from Big 12 country, so I grew up a huge Texas Longhorns fan, I watched all the Big 12 teams. When the recruiting process started, I didn’t hear anything from Florida. [Ron] Zook was there, didn’t hear anything from him or from his staff. Florida wasn’t even a consideration for me, never crossed my mind.

“When the whole issue with Tyrone Willingham getting fired [from Notre Dame]… I talked to Urban Meyer a little bit while he was at Utah, liked him a lot, but didn’t really feel comfortable going to Utah. When he accepted the job to go to Florida, he called me up and said, ‘Hey, I know you didn’t like it at Utah. What do you think about Florida?’ I was like, ‘I’ll research it, see what it looks like.’ The more I researched it, the more I learned about it, the more I liked it. I got a good feeling about it. [It happened] kind of late in the process, because it wasn’t until after the All-American game I started talking to him and took a visit up there. Got in town with my family, my family loved the community.

“I felt right with the coaching staff. I felt comfortable with the offense they were putting in. I knew that there was going to be something special that was going to happen there, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be one of the first recruiting classes to come in with them, because I knew Coach Meyer was going to be successful.”

AS: What were the first three years with the Gators like with you not getting much time on the field? Did you feel discouraged at all?
DN: “It was tough. It was real tough. An 18-19-20-year old kid coming in from high school, being heavily recruited, you automatically assume you are going to come in and you feel like you should be up for the Biletnikoff Award your first year on campus. When you’re a young kid, you buy into all the hype. You’re just really excited of what is going to happen. You come in and redshirt, the next year you sit on the bench, the year after that you sit on the bench again and you do get discouraged. You have all these people telling you how good you are, all these people from different angles saying you should be doing this…and you start to believe all the hype and all the cousins and the uncles calling you and you start to agree with them. You start to get these negative thoughts.

“The thought had crossed my mind of transferring; we actually pursued it a little bit. My dad and I sat down and looked at some options. Coach Meyer told me to just think about it and get back to him. The more I thought about it, the more we researched, I realized I came here for a reason – I came here to be a part of something special. At that moment we were on the cusp of being a great program. We had just won the National Championship in Arizona, and we were on the cusp of being great. At that moment, I knew I came here, I started something. I’m going to see it all the way through. I’m going to stick to my word and I’m going to ride this out, see where it goes and where it takes me.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with David Nelson…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

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Emmitt Smith to be enshrined in Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators running back and the NFL‘s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith leads the 2010 class that will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, on Aug. 7. Smith, who spent the majority of his 15-year professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, will be enshrined along with wide receiver Jerry Rice, defensive tackle John Randle, guard Russ Grimm, linebacker Rickey Jackson, RB Floyd Little and defensive back/coach Dick LeBeau. A rarity for players, Smith was elected in his first year of eligibility.

He holds NFL career records for rushing yards (18,355), rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard rushing games (78), is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time rushing champion (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995), four-time All-Pro first-team choice, three-time Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX), offensive rookie of the year, 1993 NFL most valuable player, Super Bowl XXVII MVP and member of the Ring of Honor for both the Gators and Cowboys.

“This is almost perfect,” Smith said. “I don’t think even Steven Spielberg could have written a script this nice. [Rice and I] were rewarded on this day.”

In his first full game at Florida, Smith broke the Gators’ all-time single game rushing record (224 yards); he would go 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 yards), longest rushing play (96 yards), 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. Upon leaving for the NFL, he received a place in the school’s exclusive Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Smith retired from football in Feb. 2005 after signing a one-day contract with the Cowboys. He will be the second Florida player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame after former defensive end Jack Youngblood was inducted in 2001.

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SIX BITS: 2010 class, Tebow, Smith, awards

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer spoke candidly with The Gainesville Sun’s Pat Dooley after National Signing Day on Wednesday. He was surprised there was not a worse reaction to his temporary resignation but actually had fun dispelling numerous rumors about his next job. “[Five-star defensive end Ronald Powell called me at 3 a.m. and] wanted to know if I was going to ESPN to replace Lee Corso,” Meyer said. That’s what he had been hearing. I just laughed.” Four-star offensive lineman Chaz Green, Florida’s last commitment, had the same question. In the end, for a man dealing with stress, his 2010 recruiting class gave him the best gift of all: relaxation. “I left my phone on (Tuesday) night but I went to sleep,” he said. “I got up, no messages. What is that? That’s the first time since I have been married I wasn’t on the phone at midnight the day before Signing Day. And we were done with the faxes by noon.”

Five more BITS including Tim Tebow’s new organization, Emmitt Smith’s upcoming honor, the women’s basketball team’s loss and much more after the jump!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: 2010 class, Tebow, Smith, awards

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