Gator Bites for Thursday, May 10

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.

» Defensive lineman Brad Culpepper on Wednesday became the second former Florida Gators player in the last three weeks to join lawsuit against the NFL. Culpepper is the lead plaintiff one of two concussion lawsuits (Brad Culpepper et al v. NFL) filed by the Locks Law Firm against the NFL. “The lawsuits are identical to the other suits filed by Gene Locks, asserting counts of fraud, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, negligence, loss of consortium and seeking declaratory relief and medical monitoring,” according to Paul Anderson. Former Florida offensive tackle Lomas Brown is part of a separate suit against the NFL that cites the recent bounty scandal as evidence that the league did not properly protect its players from concussions.

» Former Gators running back Emmitt Smith admitted this week that, while he appears to be in perfect health now, he is worried that all of the hits he took over his football-playing career may come back to haunt him both physically and mentally in the future. “The evidence is starting to pile up. You are talking to a guy who carried the ball more than anybody in NFL history. So why wouldn’t I worry? I pray about it,” he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also spoke about the tragic death of Junior Seau and reuniting with some of his former Dallas Cowboys teammates.

» Former Florida linebacker Dustin Doe has been re-signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL after appearing in just three games for the team last season. Doe registered two tackles each on defense and special teams in 2011 but spent the majority of the season on the practice squad. He is hoping to become a permanent member of the active roster this season as he attempts to continue his career.

» Speaking of players looking for new homes, it appears as if defensive tackle Marcus Thomas will be donning a different uniform in 2012. After spending the first six years of his career with the Denver Broncos, Thomas will be moving on to what he hopes are greener pastures, according to The Denver Post, which reports that it is unlikely Denver re-signs him this season. A selection in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft, Thomas has been a productive member of the Broncos throughout his career. However, Denver only wants to bring him back on a one-year deal while Thomas is looking for a multi-year agreement. The Post notes that at least two other teams are interested in Thomas’s services but will likely wait until after June 1 to sign him to a contract.

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Former coach Mike Heimerdinger dead at 58

Former Florida Gators wide receivers coach Mike Heimerdinger passed away Friday evening after losing a year-long battle with cancer. He was 58.

“It is with a heavy heart, but a trust in God, that we say goodbye to our beloved Dinger who lost his courageous battle with cancer,” his wife Kathie Heimerdinger said in a statement on Saturday. “Mike approached cancer with the same vigor and tenacity that he approached any football game — to win. Even in the final minutes he never gave up — that was our Dinger.”

A college roommate of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, Heimerdinger was a graduate assistant at Florida in 1980 and returned to coach wide receivers from 1983-87, spending his first year under Shanahan (the offensive coordinator at the time) and his tenure under head coaches Charley Pell and Galen Hall.

He won consecutive Southeastern Conference Championships with the Gators in 1984-85 and coached at three other universities before joining Shanahan as the wide receivers coach for the Denver Broncos from 1995-99.

Heimerdinger then spent four years as the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator (2000-04) and one in the same position with the New York Jets before serving as the assistant head coach back with Denver from 2006-07. He returned to Tennessee as offensive coordinator from 2008-10 and remained on the sideline last season even after being diagnosed with and while undergoing treatment for cancer.

“It was a tough deal and Dinger was a tough guy to the end, which is no surprise to those who knew what type of competitor he was,” his former head coach with the Titans, Jeff Fisher, said in an official release. “He was a man’s man. No matter how weak he looked, how weak he sounded, he never had a complaint and fought this cancer as you would only expect him to fight it.”

OGGOA sends our deepest condolences to the Heimerdinger family.

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FOUR BITS: Heimerdinger, Brantley, Driskel, FSU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receivers coach and current Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was diagnosed with cancer recently, leaving the team facility on Wednesday to undergo his first round of chemotherapy. Only 58 years old, Heimerdinger has already had an exemplary NFL career and will attempt to continue doing his job during treatment. He has decided to call plays from the sidelines for Tennessee’s game on Sunday and wishes to do so the remainder of the season as long as his health allows him to. Heimerdinger, a college roommate of Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan, was first a Florida graduate assistant in 1980. He returned to the school to coach wide receivers from 1983-87, spending his first year under Shanahan (the offensive coordinator at the time) and his tenure under head coaches Charley Pell and Galen Hall. OGGOA sends our thoughts and prayers out to the Heimerdinger family; we hope he has a speedy and full recovery.

2 » Gators fans come in all ages, sexes, shapes and sizes, but it was a 10-month-old having recently undergone surgery for a heart murmur that received a special visit from redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley. Named after the signal caller, Brantley Bowen had a seven-hour surgery to correct his heart problem just days after Florida lost to South Carolina. He is now resting comfortably and expected to make a full recovery. With both parents huge Gators fans, Brantley spent an hour-and-a-half with the family and even brought a long a gift basket including toys and autographs that his father has prepared for the occasion. “It makes me more proud that I did name my son after him,” Brantley Bowden’s mother Maegan McGalliard told the Orlando Sentinel. “It kind of makes me proud to be a Gator.”

3 » Five/four-star Florida quarterback commit Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL) has almost arrived in Gainesville, FL. In just over a month, Driskel will enroll early at the University of Florida and begin his mission to become the Gators’ signal caller of the future. While some have been so impressed with Driskel’s high school performances that they already want him to supplant Brantley or any other quarterback on the team, the high school senior is taking the hype in stride and just trying to do the best he can with the opportunities he’s provided. Nevertheless, his high school head coach Nate Gierke told The Gainesville Sun that Driskel is truly something special. “He’s an unbelievable football player. He’s the best high school player I’ve ever seen,” Gierke said. “What he’s done for our team this year, it’s just remarkable. He’s got that innate talent to make things happen. He’s done that for four years for me.”

4 » When talking about Saturday’s game against the Florida State Seminoles, considering which team “needs the win more” is basically irrelevant with any regard to predicting a winner. With that being said, The Florida Times-Union covered both sides of the argument, addressing why both schools could really use a victory this weekend. A win for Florida, according to Michael DiRocco, would extend their streak over FSU to seven games, help the team get a better bowl game, quiet critics and assist in recruiting. Garry Smits, on the other hand, believes a victory for Florida State will end their difficult losing streak, earn them a state championship, get head coach Jimbo Fisher off on the right foot and send-off a senior class – that has been through a lot – the right way.

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

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