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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TWO BITS: Baseball takes Bama, Wright inspired

1 » No. 4/6 Florida Gators baseball (32-11, 16-6 SEC) handled the Alabama Crimson Tide (28-18, 9-13 SEC) on Friday on the road at Sewell-Thomas Stadium, coming away with a 9-3 victory on the heels of freshman starter Hudson Randall’s seven shutout innings. Randall (6-3), cleared way for the Gators’ bats to get to work, and the lineup responded with every single player getting a hit. Freshman catcher Mike Zunino (2-4) led the way with three RBI; freshman third baseman Austin Maddox (2-5) attempted to match him with two RBI and two runs of his own. Florida faces Alabama the next two days before returning to Gainesville, FL, for a five-game home stand.

2 » A day before Mother’s Day, it is good to hear a nice mother-son story prominently featuring a former Florida football player. For new Chicago Bears safety Major Wright, his mother Andrea Eluett has stood as a major part of his life, which is the reason why he gave her his 2009 BCS National Championship ring last year as a present. “She’s been a big inspiration in my life,” Wright said. “Growing up, we didn’t have it all. Everything wasn’t going right for us. But she’d always be there for us no matter what it took. Her [returning to school for a pharmacy degree] showed our family that we could go to college and be productive and get great jobs. It let us know that we could do all things and not to let anything hold us back.” Read the rest: ChicagoBears.com

UPDATE » Four former Gators started competing in The PLAYERS Championship on Thursday, but only one remains after two rounds of action. Camilo Villegas (143), Brian Gay (144) and Mark Calcavecchia (147) all missed the cut while Chris Couch will continue competing with a two-day 142 (-3).

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FOUR BITS: Tebow has “it,” Lewis, TPC, lacrosse

1 » Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels continued his praise of former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to the Denver Post Thursday, citing that his first-round pick has the “it” factor. “There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it’s really interesting to see what kind of seasons they’ll put together,” McDaniels said. “Then there are guys who will say they won’t fail, our team’s not going to fail, and they have a ‘I’m not going to let you down’ attitude. And that’s what you notice with Tim.”

The coach also said Tebow has a good chance to get on the field early – not years down the line like all the NFL Draft experts and other scouts project. “To me, (his football IQ) gives him an advantage, an opportunity to play earlier than other people have played,” he continued. “Everybody keeps talking about it will be two, three years before he can play, and I think they don’t know this guy. His mental capacity, and the way he works, and the fact that he’s on such a fast pace, will give him the chance to compete apples-to-apples. It’s all going to be about his production and performance. There are a lot of rookies who can’t run plays because they can’t figure it out yet. That’s not going to be the case with Tim. He’ll be able to do the things [veterans] do. […] You know what Tim doesn’t know about our playbook? Only what we haven’t told him yet.”

2 » Baltimore Ravens veteran linebacker Ray Lewis spoke out about Tebow’s progression into the NFL to ESPN’s Colin Cowherd on Thursday. Needless to say, the future Hall of Famer champion feels Tebow has received much more help than other players have coming into the league. “The thing I was more shocked by, is you see all the people who were willing to help him,” Lewis said. “I don’t know many people who were willing to help other athletes like that. Jon Gruden loved him to death. You see all these people who took out their personal time to really work with him and make this big issue, big issue, big issue. I don’t know why he was any different than anyone else. Every young child has that dream, that same dream that Tebow had. So I don’t know why he was bigger […] than any of the other guys. He went to a big program, and, yes, he might be a favorable person, but nobody else in the league, definitely not veteran players, see themselves differently than any other player.”

3 » Four former Gators golfers are currently competing in The PLAYERS Championship in Ponta Vedra Beach, FL, each hoping to take home a PGA Tour title. After a full day of action, Camilo Villegas and Brian Gay (-2) were tied for 47th with Mark Calcavecchia (+1) and Chris Couch (+2) bringing up the rear in the 100s. Each player will tee off for their second round from 1-2 p.m. on Friday.

4 » Florida lacrosse (10-7) stunned the crowd watching the quarterfinals of the American Lacrosse Conference Tournament in Columbus, OH, Thursday night by rocking the No. 20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (10-7) 14-3. Freshman goalie Cara Canington made a school-record 14 saves on 15 shots as classmates midfielder Kitty Cullen and attacker Ashley Bruns led the way with six and three goals, respectively. The ladies will advance to face No. 11 Vanderbilt at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals. The Gators lost to the Commodores 12-7 in Gainesville, FL, earlier in the season.

Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

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FOUR BITS: Brewer MIP, LaPorta, Jones, Couch

1 » As OGGOA mentioned two weeks ago, former Florida Gators guard/forward Corey Brewer is much improved one year after returning from surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament. Brewer is playing so well for the Minnesota Timberwolves, in fact, that he is in the running for the NBA’s 2010 Most Improved Player award. “It’s a confidence thing,” Brewer said of his improvement. “My rookie year was tough because I was going from one extreme system to another extreme system. I didn’t know where I could fit in. […] That’s why I loved Florida because we pressed, I got to get out on the break, got a lot of dunks. Now to be able to do it in the NBA, to actually get some highlights, it’s good.”

Brewer also told The Gainesville Sun that he keeps a close eye on the Gators and is hopeful for the future. “They need a few more players,” he said. “Coach [Bill Donovan] has been doing a good job. Austin Rivers is going to be really good when he comes up. The big kid from Jacksonville [Patric Young] coming in, I like him. And then my man, Casey [Prather], he’s from Tennessee. I like him, athletic 6-4.”

Three more BITS on UF connections in the MLB, NCAAs and PGA…after the jump!
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Former Gators golfer Villegas wins Honda Classic

Former Florida Gators golfer Camilo Villegas had been searching for a signature victory on the PGA Tour. He found it Sunday, winning his third tour title following four days of outstanding golf at the 2010 Honda Classic from the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL.

Villegas, who shot a four-under 66 in the first round on Thursday, duplicated his performance Friday for a tie atop the leaderboard with Anthony Kim with a combined eight-under 132. Looking to pull away from the pack Saturday, he birdied four of seven holes before bogeying three in a five-hole stretch. Villegas still finished the third day with the lead after a three-under 67 kept him atop the leaderboard with an 11-under 199.

He closed out the tournament Sunday with a beautiful birdie putt on 18 for a final round two-under 68 and his first PGA Tour victory of the season. Villegas won the tournament by five strokes with a 13-under 267, tying hall of famer Jack Nicklaus‘ tournament record for margin of victory.

Villegas, who lives in South Florida, had the comfort of staying in his own home throughout the tournament and benefited from the cheering and support of local fans as he progressed throughout the weekend.

“I’m sleeping in my own bed this week, which is always nice,” Villegas said Saturday. “I’ve been nice and relaxed. Golf tournaments are four days. So with that said, you’ve got to put four good rounds together and see what happens at the end.”

After the win Sunday, it was obvious that he felt a sense of accomplishment. “It’s been a long week, but man, it’s been a good one. I loved every second of it,” he said. “It’s never as easy as you think. I stayed patient and my attitude was great all week.”

Fellow former Gators golfer Matt Every finished tied for 26th place with a one-over 281. Chris Couch missed the cut after the second day of the tournament.

Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/Associated Press

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TWO BITS: Gators at The Honda Classic, lacrosse

1 » Former Florida Gators golfers tore up the first round of The Honda Classic at the PGA National Champion Course in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Thursday. Camilo Villegas was T3 on Thursday with a -4 66, Matt Every followed at T19 with a -1 69 and Chris Couch brought up the rear at T43 with a +1 71. All three have begun the second round hot with Villegas, as of press time, tied for the lead.

2 » Lacrosse (3-1) continues to roll in its inaugural season, picking up a decisive 22-11 win over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies (0-2) Thursday night at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Freshman attackers Ashley Bruns and Julie Schindel scored five and four goals, respectively, as the Gators cruised to victory. The team is up for some stiff competition when the No. 5 Georgetown Hoyas come to town Tuesday.

Extra Bit » Before the match, Florida freshman midfielder Brittany Dashiell was named the American Lacrosse Conference Co-Rookie of the Week after scoring six combined goals against La Salle and No. 4 North Carolins last week.

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SIX BITS: NCAA bubble, PGA, Brantley, Brown

1 » After a huge upset win over the No. 17 Tennessee Volunteers last Tuesday, the Florida Gators looked to be squarely in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. A few days later, the Gators found themselves back on the bubble falling to the Georgia Bulldogs on the road. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach looks at what happened and what the team needs to do from this point forward.

2 » Four former Florida golfers were at the top of the leaderboard going into the final round of the PGA‘s Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday. Mark Calcavecchia, Matt Every, Camilo Villegas and Chris Couch were all in the hunt for the tournament title, but each wound up falling short in the end. Couch finished T4 (-13), Villegas was T8 (-11) with Every and Calcavecchia shot a final-day 74 to fall to T43 (-7).

Four more BITS on Brantley, Brown, tennis and baseball…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NCAA bubble, PGA, Brantley, Brown

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