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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FOUR BITS: Olympics, Brissett, Tebow, Harvin

1 » The Florida Gators official announced on Thursday something that has been long rumored – the team will honor current and former University of Florida student-athletes that participated in the 2012 London Olympics at halftime of the team’s home game against the LSU Tigers on Saturday. Featured at the event will be swimming medalists Ryan Lochte and junior Elizabeth Beisel as well as track & field medalists Christian Taylor and Will Claye, who make up just four of the more than 20 athletes and coaches being honored at halftime.

2 » Could sophomore quarterback Jacoby Brissett be on his way out the door? It’s possible, says Dwyer High School head coach Jack Daniels, who recently spoke with the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter. In a series of tweets sent out Thursday, Porter notes that “Brissett is all-in this season [and has] no plans to transfer” yet also notes that West Virginia and South Florida are potential destinations. “He’s making the most of a situation he’s not happy with, but he knows that’s his team right now,” Daniels told Porter. “If he doesn’t get his chance, I’m pretty sure he’s leaving.” Brissett getting “his chance” would probably only occur if starter and classmate Jeff Driskel went down with some sort of injury or pulled a 180 and began regressing dramatically.

3 » Despite quarterback Mark Sanchez playing horribly through the first four games of the season, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan is not planning to insert Tim Tebow as his starter any time soon and said as much during media availabilities this week. But while Ryan may not be ready to make a chance, team owner Woody Johnson could insist on it, especially if the Jets continue playing this poorly. NFL.com reporter Jeff Darlington wrote this week that New York must embrace the inevitability of Tebow starting, a move that could very well turn the team’s season around. Also interesting about Darlington’s piece is the opening two paragraphs, which detail the lack of support Tebow had with the Denver Broncos from the get-go.

They marched one by one through the second floor of the Denver Broncos’ training facility, each quarterback stopping first in offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s office to hear the same message that would then be echoed like a corporate line from coach John Fox.

“Stay ready,” McCoy told Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, a story relayed by one team source and corroborated by another. “We’re not sure how long this is going to last.”

4 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin has already done some amazing things in his young NFL career but still managed to add another honor this week when he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September. Harvin, whose franchise-record 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week undoubtedly fueled his receiving of the award, did not receive any honors last year after racking up the awards during his rookie campaign in 2009. He is currently averaging 74.75 yards on 7.5 receptions per game this season but has yet to find the end zone as a receiver or rusher.

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FOUR BITS: Gaffney, Brewer, LaCaze, ESPNU

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, an 11-year NFL veteran who was cut by the New England Patriots during the preseason, signed with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday and officially joined his fifth professional franchise. Gaffney has only missed five regular season games while employed (all in 2006) and is the type of durable, veteran presence that Miami has desperately needed. He is also coming off the best two years production-wise. Gaffney set career-highs with 65 receptions for 875 yards with Denver in 2010 and eclipsed those numbers with 68 receptions for 947 yards (and a career-high-tying five touchdowns) with Washington last season.

2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey (and some of his teammates) made their acting debuts this year by making cameos as football players during the acclaimed film “The Dark Knight Rises.” As it turns out, Denver Nuggets guard/forward Corey Brewer will also be featured in a movie though his is set to be released on Jan. 25, 2013. In a new trailer for the ensemble comedy “Movie 43” released by Comedy Central, Brewer is shown as a basketball player being coached up by Terrence Howard. The film – which features a start-studded cast including names like Hugh Jackman, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman and Kate Winslet (along with some well-known comedy stars) – will undoubtedly receive at least an R rating for language, nudity, sexual situations, etc. The “red band” trailer below, which features a line from Brewer, contains adult content and explicit language. (Hat tip to John B.)

3 » It appears as if Florida has added a second competitor from the 2012 London Olympics to its coaching staffs as former Gators steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze announced on Twitter that she has signed up to be a volunteer coach with the track & field program. LaCaze, who raced for Australia but did not medal in the Olympics, joins British swimmer and world record holder Gemma Spofforth, who was announced as a volunteer assistant by Florida last week. Spofforth, who graduated in 2010, competed in two Olympics and is now retired from the sport. LaCaze graduated this past spring and is planning to make a go of it for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

4 » ESPNU on Tuesday aired a special All Access program that took a look at the Gators football team as it worked through its bye last week. If you missed the show, ESPN informed OGGOA that it will re-air twice more this week on Oct. 5 at 4:30 p.m. and Oct. 7 at 6:30 a.m. Though the program did not provide much in the way of new information (similar clips have been featured in previous ESPN specials), it was an interesting look behind the scenes this season.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 27

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.

» In his second contribution to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah discusses helping host a basketball tournament that featured members of different local gangs all playing together “to promote peace and bring some positivity into the neighborhood.” Noah, through his Noah’s Arc Foundation, helps “children develop a stronger sense of self” in order to help fulfill their dreams.

What I witnessed was different gangs, different religions and different kinds of people joining forces to address the problems that affect a community they all share. I felt we accomplished our goal on a micro-level for that one day, and hopefully the effects will stretch far beyond.

» Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal recently sat down for some interviews as he prepares to begin his first NBA season. Beal spoke to a member of the Wizards’ staff about going through his first media day as a professional (Video) and The Wall Street Journal (video below) about being a young man suddenly coming into money as a professional basketball player.

Check out 10 more bites of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 27

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Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics concluded on Sunday with the Florida Gators bringing home 16 event medals including four gold, six silver and six bronze over the course of 19 days worth of action across the pond.

In an effort to highlight the Gators’ praiseworthy accomplishments while simultaneously recapping over two weeks worth of athletic action, OGGOA presents this wrap up of the presence that Florida’s athletes made at the Olympics. Below you will find facts, figures and highlights of what the Gators accomplished from July 25 through Aug. 12.

You can check out the Olympic results as they happened as well as the official Gator Nation vs. The World medal count and plenty of other information by checking out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

FACTS AND FIGURES

» If Gator Nation was its own country, it would have been ranked 17th overall in the final Olympic medal both in weighted and grand total calculations. The Gators won as many gold medals (four) as Jamaica and Czech Republic and captured one more than Spain, Brazil and South Africa (among others).

» Twelve Florida athletes won a grand total of 18 individual medals (16 event medals) for three countries. Fourteen of the 16 medals won were captured for the United States.

» 35.3 percent of the Gators that competed in the Olympics (12-of-34) won at least one medal. 50 percent (17-of-34) at least reached a final or competed for a medal.

» Ryan Lochte (swimming, United States) led the way with five medals including two golds (one shared in a relay with Conor Dwyer), two silvers and a bronze. Following Lochte with two each were Elizabeth Beisel (swimming, United States) and Will Claye (athletics, United States), who both brought home a silver and a bronze.

» Three other Florida athletes won gold including Christian Taylor (athletics, United States), Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts (football, United States). The rest of the medals included a silver each from Tony McQuay and Jeff Demps (athletics, United States) as well as a bronze each from Lisa Raymond (tennis, United States), Melanie Booth (football, Canada) and Novlene Williams-Mills (athletics, Jamaica).

» Beisel is the only current UF student-athlete that medaled in the Olympics. She will be entering her junior year in 2012.

» Seventeen countries were represented by Gators including the United States (11), Great Britain (6), Cayman Islands and Iceland (two each) and Australia, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia (one each). Florida athletes also competed in five sports categories including swimming (19), athletics (10), football (three), basketball and tennis (one each).

Read the rest of “Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics” after the break…

Continue Reading » Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

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Demps, Williams capture medals on Saturday

On the final day of competition for former Florida Gators in the 2012 London Olympics, two more medals were added to Gator Nation’s impressive haul due to runner-up finishes in track & field competition.

Former Gators running back and sprinter Jeff Demps, a member of the United States’ Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay team, was awarded a silver medal when the Americans finished second in the finals of the event on Saturday.

Demps ran for the United States in the first round of the event but was not chosen for the final foursome. Jamaica won the race and set a new world record of 36.84 seconds with the U.S. finishing second in 37.04 seconds. That mark tied the previous world record and set a new American record.

Just minutes before the men ran, Novlene Williams-Mills joined Jamaica on the track as the anchor for the Women’s 4×400 Meter Relay.

The U.S. blew past the field in the event, finishing in 3:16.87, but Williams-Mills ran the second-fastest leg of the race (49.46 seconds) and led her country to a bronze medal.

In total, 12 former Florida athletes earned 16 medal placements over the course of the Olympics. Gator Nation as its own country would be ranked 15th overall in the international medal count though dozens of medals have yet to be awarded. OGGOA will provide a full wrap-up following the conclusion of the Olympics on Sunday.

For a recap of Saturday’s events and the entire Olympics as well as a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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McQuay adds a silver to Gators’ medal haul

Just 24 hours after former Florida Gators put together arguably the most accomplished day in school Olympic history, runner Tony McQuay (United States) added another silver medal to the team’s collection by running the third leg of the Men’s 4×400 Meter Relay for the second-place Americans at the 2012 London Olympics on Friday.

McQuay’s silver is the fifth won by the Gators in these Olympics as well as Florida’s 14th overall medal. It is also the fourth in track & field events after Christian Taylor brought home gold in the Men’s Triple Jump on Thursday and Will Claye grabbed silver in that event as well as bronze in the Men’s Long Jump.

As a member of the U.S. relay team that competed in the first round of the event, McQuay ran a 43.65 split, the fastest of any of the 64 runners that competed in that round. He topped that mark with a 43.41 split in the finals, faster than any of the 36 men in the race. McQuay left the Americans in first place before handing off the baton.

Two more Gators could compete in Olympic track action in the final day of competition.

Jeff Demps (United States) ran the first leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay for the Americans on Friday. The U.S. finished first overall with a national record time of 37.38. Though Demps may not be chosen to join the final foursome competing in the finals of the event, he will still be eligible for a medal due to his participation in the first round.

Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica) did not run for her country in the Women’s 4×400 Meter Relay on Friday but is expected to be added to the team for the event finals. Jamaica ran a seasonal best 3:25.13 but finished fourth overall in their first round race.

For a recap of Friday’s events with stats, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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Gators Christian Taylor, Will Claye take home gold and silver for United States in Triple Jump

Former Florida Gators Christian Taylor and Will Claye dominated the finals of the Men’s Triple Jump at the 2012 London Olympics on Thursday, finishing first and second in the event, respectively, to take home gold and silver for the United States.

Taylor, 22, the reigning world champion and gold medal favorite going into the event, became the youngest jumper in 100 years to win Olympic gold in the Triple Jump.

He almost did not have the opportunity to be the first American since 1996 to capture gold in the event, however, after committing fouls on his first two introductory jumps.

Taylor hit a mark of 17.15m on his third attempt to cement his place in the top eight and qualify for three more jumps. He wasted little time showcasing his dominance, hitting a seasonal best of 17.81m on his fourth attempt, a mark that would win him the gold medal.

Claye, the world indoor champion in the event who already took home bronze on Saturday in the Men’s Long Jump, won silver with a mark of 17.62m on his fourth jump. He led through the first three jumps with a second attempt of 17.54m, a mark which only he and Taylor eclipsed over the duration of the event.

The medals won by Taylor and Claye mark the 11th and 12th by former Gators in these Olympics. Representatives of Florida now have three golds, four silvers and five bronzes over the course of the games with a handful of events remaining.

Taylor’s medal is also the first individual track & field gold in program history. Taylor and Claye’s medals are just the second and third field medals in school history.

For recaps of their performances, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/Associated Press

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