17 Gator Bites for Monday, January 14

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators junior forward Will Yeguete as seen Gator Chomping his way into your living room after his team took down LSU 74-52 on the road on Saturday. Animated GIF created for OnlyGators.com by photekxl.

» In addition to being the first center in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in the league, Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey learned Saturday that he has also been voted a 2012 NFL All-Pro by the Associated Press for the third-straight year. Pouncey was also named to USA Football’s All-Fundamental Team this season.

» Fresh off winning the 2012 FIFA World Player of the Year award for the first time in her illustrious career, former Florida striker Abby Wambach received some more great news when she was allocated to her hometown team – the Western New York Flash – on Friday by the brand new eight-team National Women’s Soccer League. Wambach, a native of Rochester, NY, was like all players able to submit a list of requested destinations for the league’s initial allocation and of course put the Flash, which are set to play home games in Rochester, at the very top. Though not every player in the league received their top choice – including other U.S. Women’s National Team stars – most were happy with their destinations. None more so than Wambach.

» According to multiple reports, Gators freshman defensive back Willie Bailey has chosen Louisville as his transfer destination. Bailey chose to leave the program in early December in a decision that was a long time coming as he was not likely to see the field much for the duration of his career.

Check out 13 more Gator Bites…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: Evans, O’Day, Taylor, McDonald

1 » Florida Gators senior safety Josh Evans opened up to the New York Post recently about the difficulties he faced after losing his mother over six years ago while still in eighth grade. In fact, Evans had to come to grips with the situation head-on considering he was the only one in the house at the time of his mom’s passing. “I was actually there. My mother had been dealing with cancer for a couple of years, and I had no clue, I didn’t know she had cancer because I was young, my parents didn’t want the baby boy to know that she was sick to that magnitude,” he explained. “It was toward the end of the school year, graduation was coming up, eighth grade, I had a day off from school. So my father went to work and he said, ‘Make sure you check on her every 10-20 minutes.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I will.’ After he left, 10, 15 minutes went by, I walked back in the room to check on her and that was it. I saw something that changed my life forever.” Read more.

2 » Two former Florida baseball players began the 2012 MLB Playoffs late last week though only one remains past the wild card qualification weekend. Right-handed pitcher Darren O’Day has already seen action as a reliever for the Baltimore Orioles as the team got past the wild card stage and is now engaged in a five-game series with the New York Yankees. Atlanta Braves catcher David Ross, on the other hand, hit a two-run homer in his team’s game but is now out of the playoffs due to the Braves losing.

3 » Former Florida jumpers Christian Taylor and Will Claye – who took home gold and silver, respectively, in the triple jump at the 2012 London Olympics over the summer (Claye also won bronze in the long jump) – are two of six male athletes nominated for 2012 Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year, an award that recognizes track & field’s best male and female athlete. The award will be officially presented on Dec. 1. with fans receiving the opportunity to vote for their favorite.

4 » San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald may not post the gaudy stats like some of his contemporaries, but he is just as integral to his team’s success as any of the top players at his position in the NFL. Speaking with the 49ers’ team website last week, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio raved about what McDonald brings to the table each day. “He has a tremendous impact on any game and on our defense,” he said. “When teams have a hard time running, he’s right in the middle of that. Whether he’s being credited with a tackle or not is irrelevant.” After playing sparingly as a reserve in his first few seasons, McDonald was signed to a starter’s contract in 2011 (five years, $20 million) and moved into that role last year. He is more than living up to his end of the bargain and could be in line for a raise before his deal expires in 2015.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, August 16th

From time to time, OGGOA will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. In these instances, or when stories fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Former Florida Gators defensive end Justin Trattou was cut by the New York Giants on Thursday after missing all of training camp up to this point with a variety of injuries. Trattou was active for a number of games last season and won a ring last season as New York defeated New England 31-25 in Super Bowl XLV.

» Speaking of the Giants, the team brought former Gators defensive tackle Marcus Thomas in for a visit Thursday. New York is looking to upgrade the interior of its defensive line and Thomas is one of the biggest names on the free agent market after failing to come to an agreement with the Denver Broncos, where he started 11 of the 12 games he played last season. Thomas recently tweeted that he would be willing to play “for practice squad money.”

» The New York Jets are rumored to be one of a handful of finalists bidding for the services of former Florida running back Jeff Demps, so of course quarterback Tim Tebow was asked about the possibility during training camp on Thursday. As expected, Tebow supported the potential addition of Demps but said he would not pressure him to join him with the Jets. “They asked me about him,” he said according to the Newark Star-Ledger. “Jeff is a great guy and a great player, and he’s someone that I was proud to play with in college. He did a great job for us, and I feel like wherever he goes, he’ll work hard at and do a good job for that team.”

» ESPN’s Andy Katz spoke with Yale head coach James Jones recently about his team getting an unusual visit from the UF basketball team this season. Jones “credited a Yale administrator who once worked at Florida as well as Gators head coach Billy Donovan” for creating the home-away-home series that gets a high-profile team to visit Yale. “Donovan…isn’t adverse to playing home games for players in odd places,” Katz wrote. “He once played at UNH for New Hampshire native Matt Bonner. This is a ‘home’ game for Rhode Island native Erik Murphy.”

Read nine more Gator Bites…after the break!
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SIX BITS: Whitson, Dickey, Wilbekin, Maye

1 » Florida Gators right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, who concluded his freshman campaign with an 8-1 record, 2.40 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 97.1 innings, was named a first-team Freshman All-American by Baseball America on Wednesday. Starting 19 games for Florida, Whitson was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft and snubbed the San Diego Padres contract offer of nearly $2 million to spend what he hopes are three successful years in college.

2 » Former Gators quarterback and outfielder Gavin Dickey is making strides playing baseball and recently found out that he is on a record hitting streak for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the non-MLB affiliated American Association baseball league. Now on a 21-game hitting streak, Dickey learned of his achievement via a Facebook message from a fan, reports the Tallahassee Democrat. Dickey, who hit .268 as a minor leaguer for the Seattle Mariners (which selected him in the 12th round of the 2006 MLB Draft), signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Braves in the offseason but only lasted with the team for a month. “It’s still about going out and having fun, competing and winning,” he said.

3 » Impressed with what sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin accomplished with the Florida basketball team as a 17-year-old true freshman last season? If his brother has his way, the Gators may see a similar output from a number member of the clan in two years. A sophomore at The Rock high school in Gainesville, FL, Mitchell Wilbekin told The Gainesville Sun that he is 100 percent dedicated to playing for Florida…if head coach Billy Donovan offers him a scholarship. “I’d love to be a Gator,” the younger Wilbekin told the paper. “If they offered me, I’d definitely go there.” The Sun describes him as “on track to be the highest-rated Gainesville-area basketball recruit in more than a decade” and notes that the 2014 recruit recently drained six treys and scored 21 points in only three quarters of shooting at a recent showcase.

4 » Four-star safety Marcus Maye (Melbourne, FL) confirmed once again this week that the Gators are his leader, telling ESPNU’s Corey Long that they are above two of Florida’s rivals – Florida State and Alabama. “The fact that I’ve been up there numerous times and have a great relationship with the coaches is what puts them out front,” he said. “I’m excited about the upcoming future of the program and I feel like they are going to have a pretty good year. Being part of the SEC is something I’ve always wanted to do and I think UF is a great place for me to take my next step and that’s the reason it’s the top school on my list. It’s a place where I feel comfortable at.” Maye still wants to take official visits to FSU and UA and will not commit until he has seen more schools.

5 » In a recent poll of 848 Floridians conducted by Public Policy Polling, the Gators received 30 percent of the vote when the respondents were asked to pick their favorite in-state college football program. Behind them, in order, were Florida State (19 percent), Central Florida (11 percent), Miami (nine percent) and South Florida (six percent).

6 » Four Florida football players – senior running back Jeff Demps, redshirt seniors RB Chris Rainey and wide receiver Deonte Thompson, and sophomore RB Trey Burton were announced as part of the offensive watch list for the 2011 College Football Performance Awards. The CFPAs are handed out based on objective scientific analysis rather than voting.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Taylor, Bullock, Macklin

1 » Due to his migraines and a coaching change mid-season, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not end up performing up to where he did when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie one year earlier. When If the 2011 season begins, Harvin will be more involved in the offense, according to head coach Leslie Frazier. “I still think there are more things that can be done with Percy [Harvin],” he told the Minnesota Star Tribune. “We did some things toward the end of the year where we definitely tried to isolate him, and that’s one of the reasons I pulled him off kickoff at times. I wanted to feature him more than we were. I wanted him to be a featured part of our offense. There’s different things we can do with him, and hopefully, Sidney [Rice is] in the fold and he’s healthy and there’s some things that we can do with him. Because of Adrian [Peterson], there are opportunities that we can do on the perimeter that a lot of teams can’t. But you still have to account for him on every single play. So, we have to be able to exploit in that sense and I think what we’re trying to do is build to be able to do that. Adrian creates a lot of good situations for our perimeter people.”

2 » Two months ago, veteran running back Fred Taylor sounded like he was going to call it quits after a 13-year NFL career including 10 as a featured rusher. Having amassed 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns (as well as 290 receptions for 2,384 yards and eight more scorers) over his career, Taylor has noted that being healthy enough to spend quality time with his family is important going forward. On Monday, Taylor told Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union that being injured in 2010 may have “bought him some extra years.” At 35-years-old, it remains to be seen if he will decide to continue and what time, if any, would sign him.

3 » Former Florida right-handed pitcher Billy Bullock was traded from the Minnesota Twins – who drafted him in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft – to the Atlanta Braves on Monday in order to complete an long-standing deal. Bullock has spent his time as a professional in the minor leagues and pitched for AA squad New Britain last season, striking out 60 batters in 36 2/3 innings.

4 » Wrapping up Gators basketball for the 2011 season is this story from The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway on a tattoo redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin has on his forearm. Though he has 40+ tattoos, Macklin has one that means a lot more to him the rest – a memorial to his deceased grandmother. Read more about Macklin’s tattoo here.

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Florida grad Davie’s bat grab earns rave reviews

Being a Florida Gators fan these days will not get you much publicity…unless you’re a beautiful woman, happen to be wearing jean shorts or are getting in some kind of trouble. Mitch Davie broke through that barrier by simply attending a Atlanta Braves spring training baseball game on Friday and – not as simply – making an astounding one-handed grab of a baseball bat flying into the stands (without spilling his Red Stripe).

“There was a group of nine of us that went to the game courtesy of our area manager for all our hard work these past months. So everyone on my right in my row is with me,” Davie told OGGOA in his first interview about the catch. “I had told D.J. Ackley, who is in sunglasses, that if a ball came his way I’d catch it.

“Two innings later, I hear the crowd scream and I look up and see the bat flying [in my direction]. So I just timed it and threw my hand out. I told D.J. afterward that he didn’t even react; he told me he put his foot up, but I didn’t even see it because I was so focused on the bat.”

Had the Associated Press’ David Goldman not captured the moment with his camera, only a select group of people would have known about Davie’s catch. Instead, his picture has been featured on numerous websites and mentioned on television programs including Jim Rome is Burning (ESPN) and Regis and Kelly (ABC).

He has been contacted for a handful of interviews but chose to speak with OGGOA first.

“I was surprised it was caught on camera and not video,” he said. “I assumed, it being a game played at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, that it would have been caught by someone’s video camera. The response has been tremendous.”

When a bat is flung into the crowd by accident, the respective team’s equipment manager often retrieves it in exchange for a replacement bat or some other memorabilia. Davie was able to keep the one he nabbed, though he jokingly wished his efforts were somewhat rewarded by the offending batter.

“The bat is in my possession,” he said. “I’m kind of upset [Atlanta second baseman] Dan Uggla left in the eighth inning, so I didn’t get an autograph. I think the least he owes me is dinner and a movie for saving him from a lawsuit!”

Davie may not get to enjoy a steak with Uggla, but he was definitely a part of a moment that Gators fans will be proud of for quite some time.

Photo Credit: David Goldman/Associated Press

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OF Jonathan Pigott signs with Atlanta Braves

Former Florida Gators outfielder Jonathan Pigott has signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. He is the fourth member of the 2010 team to sign with an MLB team and the only one to do so after not being selected in the 2010 MLB Draft.

Pigott has been assigned to the Gulf Coast League Braves, who play their home games at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, FL.

A defensive-minded player, Pigott did not commit a single error in 267 chances during his four-year Florida career.

Closer Kevin Chapman (fourth round, Kansas City Royals), outfielder Matt den Dekker (fifth round, New York Mets) and catcher Hampton Tignor (36th round, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim) are the other former players who found professional homes this offseason.

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