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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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

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Saints bring DE Bobby McCray back for 2010

Former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray was released by the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints exactly one month ago. After agreeing to a reduced contract on Thursday, he will return to Who Dat Nation with a one-year, $1.5 million deal including an additional $1 million in achievable incentives.

McCray, who was the Saints’ third end but started a quarter of his games during his two-year run with New Orleans, made a number of impact plays as a starter during their playoff run last season.

The Saints acquired fellow former Gators defensive end Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason and expect him to start on the left side. McCray, who worked with the first team defense during mini camp, will still see plenty of playing time next season.

He was due a $1.25 million roster bonus and was probably released by New Orleans in order to avoid that payment. The team did not attempt to renegotiate as McCray’s 2010-11 base salary was set at $2 million. Should he hit all of incentives, the Saints will only save $0.75 million with his new contract.

McCray, who made headlines for during the season for his vicious hits on quarterbacks Kurt Warner (Arizona) and Brett Favre (Minnesota), complied 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his previous two years in New Orleans.

Photo Credit: Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

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New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

With eight years of professional football under his belt, former Florida Gators defensive end Alex Brown is moving on from the Chicago Bears to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. In a brand new city with an upbeat and positive mindset, Brown landed in Louisiana on Wednesday to start preparing for training camp. The first thing he did after touching down? Provide OGGOA with an exclusive half-hour interview covering everything from his recruitment and time with the Gators to the Bears’ Super Bowl run and why grits are his favorite thing about the city of New Orleans, LA (so far).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Growing up in a small town, was it difficult to get noticed by the University of Florida and make an impression on head coach Steve Spurrier?
ALEX BROWN: “Yeah, it was. I just wanted to go and play football – that’s all I did. I was nervous because I didn’t know if people would see me. My dad was really good just staying on me about it. ‘If you go play, if you’re good enough, they’ll find you.’ That was his big thing. All I did was go play – and they found me.”

AS: What made you decide to attend Florida rather than going to Georgia or another school? Were you always a Gators fan?
AB: “I actually was not a Florida fan at all. I really wasn’t even going to take a visit to Florida. University of Miami – that year – my last visit I was going to take was going to be to the University of Miami. And I was going to choose between Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Auburn. There was a kid that got killed at Miami – I want to say it was like on a Monday or Tuesday – and I was supposed to go on a visit that coming weekend. And my mom was like, ‘No way, you can’t go. You can’t do it.’ I was like, ‘Alright, I guess I will not take another visit.’ I talked to [Buffalo Bills linebacker] Andra Davis, who I’ve known since like fifth grade, and he had just taken his visit to Florida and that was the celebration of the National Championship – that was that week. He had a great time. So I talked to him and he said he was going to Florida. He’s like, ‘Just take your visit there, you’re not going to go to Miami, so take your visit to Florida.’ Early in the week, I called coach [Jimmy Ray] Stephens, he was the offensive line coach at the time and the guy that recruited me. He said, ‘OK.’ I was in Gainesville for a day. [Atlanta Falcons LB] Mike Peterson was my host and, by the time I left, they could have left me there. I was going for sure. As soon as I got back, I started calling all the other coaches and letting them know that this is what I want. It wasn’t too far from home but far enough away, I guess. And they were good. I played linebacker, and they had [former DE] Jevon Kearse, Mike Peterson and [former LB] Johnny Rutledge – and I thought I fit right in. It was a great match for me and took me all of a day-and-a-half to figure that out.

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Alex Brown…after the break!
Continue Reading » New Orleans Saints DE Alex Brown: “The Florida Gators will never change for me.”

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Saints unexpectedly release DE Bobby McCray

Former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray was released by the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Monday. McCray, who was the Saints’ third end but still started a quarter of the team’s games during his two-year run with New Orleans, made some impactful defensive plays as a starter during their playoff run last season.

Interestingly enough, the Saints acquired fellow former Gators defensive end Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason. Brown is expected to start for New Orleans on the left side even after McCray worked with the first team defense during mini camp over the last few weeks; his signing projected starting job most likely led to McCray’s dismissal.

According to Pro Football Talk, McCray was due a $1.25 million roster bonus in just over a week and was likely cut to avoid that payment. The team did not attempt to renegotiate and will also save $2 million on his 2010-11 base salary.

McCray, who made headlines for during the season for his vicious hits on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre, was arrested during the season for allegedly driving under the influence. He complied 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans.

OGGOA RELATED: San Diego cuts former Florida DT Ian Scott

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Vikings’ Percy Harvin is “tremendously honored”

Coming off of a fantastic first season in which he captured the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, former Florida Gators now Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin hopes to build on his team’s fortunes and lead the Vikings to a Super Bowl, something they were unable to attain last season. OGGOA had an opportunity to speak with Harvin over the weekend. We picked his brain about a number of subjects before he fulfilled his responsibilities for Palm Beach Autographs [site sponsor] including his rookie season, the speed of the NFL, his chronic migraine problems and how he is already being remembered in Florida football history.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: With how you played last year, winning Rookie of the Year and compiling some fantastic statistics in the receiving and return games, do you feel like you proved a lot of people wrong who were criticizing you going into the 2009 NFL Draft?
PERCY HARVIN: “I didn’t go into it trying to prove anybody wrong. I knew the capabilities I had. So I just went out there and wanted to contribute to my team. First of all, in the special teams area. As Brett [Favre] got there, [he] taught me the game a little faster than I probably would have learned it with the other quarterbacks. He speeded up my process a whole lot. A lot of that just goes to him, learning from Sidney [Rice], Bernard Berrian and the other receivers.”

Read the rest of our interview with Percy Harvin…after the break!
Continue Reading » Vikings’ Percy Harvin is “tremendously honored”

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Bears safety Major Wright set to “make my mark”

Former Florida Gators safety Major Wright is on the cusp of beginning his rookie campaign with the Chicago Bears. Selected by Chicago in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Wright has been preparing each day since being picked to take the field for training camp and show both his coaches and Bears fans that he is capable of making an impact right away. OGGOA caught up with Wright before a scheduled appearance he had signing autographs in West Palm Beach, FL. He spoke with us about a variety of topics including his time at Florida, the future of the Gators program and what he hopes to accomplish right away as a professional in the NFL.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What kind of advice would you give to a high school recruit about to make a college decision, perhaps one considering Florida?
MAJOR WRIGHT: “At Florida, you know, they recruit the best athletes. So, if they recruit you, you’re obviously one of the best athletes out there. Stay focused, maintain what you are doing and always work hard and things are going to happen for you. Especially at the University of Florida – the best talent, the best coaching, the best facilities. That’s where kids want to be at these days.”

AS: How hard was it for you to make the adjustment from high school to college?
MW: “It was pretty hard. Being that you’re coming from high school to college. With me, I went to St. Thomas Aquinas – a well-known program that has great coaching. With my coaching and the speed of the game, it’s a lot different from high school to college. It’s a hard [transition], but I made it and went on with it.”

AS: Ahmad Black and Will Hill are still left, trying to hold down the back end of the secondary. How do you think they are going to play next year?
MW: “They’re going to be great. Me playing with them, those are definitely some focused guys. They know what they’re doing. Ahmad Black and Will Hill [are] definitely [going to] be like one of the two best tandems in college football.”

Read the rest of our interview with Major Wright…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bears safety Major Wright set to “make my mark”

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Childress skips Clausen to meet with Gators

In an offseason where individual Pro Day workouts have been the talk of the 2010 NFL Draft, the last major one is set to take place Friday when Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen (and his teammates including wide receiver Golden Tate) work out for representatives from every NFL team in South Bend, IN.

However, one head coach who consciously decided to skip the event altogether is Brad Childress of the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, he will be in Gainesville, FL, as the featured speaker at a Florida football coaches clinic Friday; he will also stick around to workout draft-eligible players on a one-and-one basis.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Childress is set to meet with quarterback Tim Tebow, center Maurkice Pouncey, linebacker Brandon Spikes, wide receiver Riley Cooper, safety Major Wright and defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham during his time in Gainesville.

Childress has already gone on record in regards to his respect and admiration for Tebow. He has also had both WR Percy Harvin (whom he drafted with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft) and head coach Urban Meyer in his ear about the former Heisman Trophy winner. No wonder Childress has been seriously considering drafting Tebow.

With Brett Favre‘s NFL career in limbo (he’s coming back) and Harvin already on his roster, Childress and the Vikings may very well believe that Tebow is their quarterback of the future and worthy of their No. 30 overall first-round pick. (Especially if Pouncey is selected before they are on the clock.)

Minnesota’s vice president of player personnel, Rick Spielman, was in attendance at the Gators’ Pro Day in March, and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will represent the team Friday at Notre Dame.

Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

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