1 » During an interview with the Boomer and Carton Show on WFAN and CBS Sports Radio, New York Jets wide receiver David Nelson was asked about former teammate Aaron Hernandez and whether he ever had an inkling that the former tight end was be capable of going off the rails. “You know, there was definitely some tendencies – I’d be lying to you if I said there wasn’t – but it was a huge surprise,” he said. “It really shocked me. Because this is a guy I saw get into a fight in practice and [he was] crying 15 minutes later because he had just hurt his teammate. So this was a guy who was extremely sensitive, he was extremely vulnerable, but the thing is, he was who he hung out with. So if he was hanging out with somebody he was very influenced.
Nelson corroborated what has been reported elsewhere, that members of the Florida Gators were worried about Hernandez going home to Connecticut and hanging out with his old crowd. He also noted that head coach Urban Meyer purposely put Hernandez around himself and Tim Tebow to help improve his character. “You saw some issues with him in college, but they were minor – some drug stuff and that was about it – but nothing to this extreme,” Nelson added. “So he started to hang out with the wrong crowd, get a lot of fame, a lot of money, start to get that ‘I can do whatever I want’ invincible kind of mentality a lot of NFL guys get. And I think you saw him make a really bad mistake.”
1 » It has been three weeks since Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper (due to the vile word he uttered) has been in the news, but he made headlines on Thursday for getting into a fight with cornerback Cary Williams during practice. The two began to scuffle following a tackle with Williams going after Cooper again after the teammates were separated. Starting quarterback Michael Vick stepped between the two and Williams was escorted away. After the incident, Cooper said he did not believe the fight had anything to do with the prior controversy surrounding him. Williams refused to speak with reporters and noticeably ignored Cooper in the locker room later that day.
The video below – annoyingly – auto-starts, so be sure to pause / mute as necessary.
2 » The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson investigated the reason that such a high profile game between the No. 9/12 Florida Gators and No. 24 Miami Hurricanes was being played in the extreme heat of high noon when so many other television slots that day were filled with sub-standard games. The reason? As hard as ESPN tried, the network simply could not fulfill Miami’s request to have the game at any other time – even on a different station – due to a number of different restrictions.
3 » Former Gators catcher Brian Jeroloman got absolutely crushed during a recent minor league game. Playing for the Harrisburg Senators, a Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals, Jeroloman was waiting at home plate for a relay throw when Brandon Douglas plowed through him and knocked the ball free.
1 » Florida Gators football released this 2013 season promo. It’s quite good.
2 » Former Gators linebacker James Bates impersonates and tells stories about former Florida head coach Steve Spurrier. Bates was recently hired as a college football analyst by FOX Sports for the new FOX Sports 1 channel.
1 » Former Florida Gators dazzler Erin Andrews and softball player Jenn Brown, just over one year ago, were both working as sideline reports for ESPN with the former taking on a bunch of other duties as well. Neither remains with the network today, but Andrews and Brown each have a great opportunity to shine with their new company. Andrews, who was hired by FOX Sports last July, spent 2012 sitting at a studio desk as host of a primetime college football pre-game show while also serving as a sideline reporter for major sports events including the MLB postseason. According to SB Nation, her duties will increase this season with the launch of the FOX Sports 1 network. Andrews will move from the primetime half-hour show to hosting a new college football pregame show that will air on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, going head-to-head with ESPN’s College GameDay. Before leaving ESPN, Andrews was given hosting duties for the first hour of College GameDay, which aired from 9-10 a.m. on ESPNU.
Brown, after spending a short stint working with NBC, has signed a deal with the NFL Network, according to The Big Lead. She will start appearing on-air Thursday when she hosts the network’s Total Access show though the breath of her duties is currently unknown. “I’m thrilled to get back to the NFL,” she told the website. “The first sports job I had was on Inside the NFL. Covering college football for ESPN was a great time and I learned a lot, but it’s good to get back to the NFL.”
2 » Yahoo! Sports’ Marc J. Spears sat down with Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons to discuss what OnlyGators.com reported almost three weeks ago – Parsons’s role in luring free agent center Dwight Howard to Houston. “I spent a lot of time during the summer in L.A.,” Parsons explained. “We kind of just hit it off. We literally would text every day. [Howard would] call me at 8 p.m. with a question and then he’d call me at midnight with the same question. … I was just that guy trying to make him feel as comfortable as possible. We have very similar personalities. We are both outgoing. We’re always smiling. We like to have fun. I made him really comfortable that he was not only coming to a really good team, but a team with his friends.” Parsons also talks about his pitch, being involved in the official meeting and where he was when he learned Howard chose the Rockets.
1 » As part of a story on former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow in the June issue of ESPN The Magazine, author David Fleming notes that members of the player’s “camp [are] privately admitting that his NFL run is probably over.” Shortly after the story was released online, members of Tebow’s “camp” began the damage control. “It’s not true,” a source told NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Added his father Bob Tebow: “You are old enough to not believe all your hear.” Someone else in Tebow’s stable told USA Today’s Mike Garafolo, in the writer’s words, that “Tebow isn’t ready to give up, retire or look to head to the Canadian Football League or Arena Football League.” While these reports provide a different angle than Fleming portrayed, none actually refute what the source in Tebow’s camp told Fleming. Tebow may have every intention of continuing his NFL career but that does not mean those in his camp are forced to vehemently believe that he will actually wind up receiving another opportunity from a team.
2 » New Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has not yet participated in a team practice, despite being under contract, and is unlikely to do so before training camp convenes in three weeks. Reed is still recovering from a left leg injury and feels the appendage is not strong enough yet to go full-speed on at this time. “[The trainer] has been helping me out a lot. I’m getting stronger, getting my muscle back. That’s all I really need to do: get my muscle back and I’ll be all set,” he told Comcast SportsNet. Reed explained that a thigh contusion he suffered at Florida led to a bone bruise in his knee, which is why he is currently missing practice time.”
For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2012 (check out Monday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From crazy occurrences and strange decisions to receiving major awards and being involved in the biggest sports stories of the last 12 months, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 Off the Field Stories of the Year.
12 » A WACKY YEAR, INDEED
For every major story and exciting moment that occurred in 2012, there were plenty of instances in which Gators fans could not do anything but shake their heads, furrow their brows or shrug their shoulders at something they just saw or heard. Below is a list-within-a-list of the 10 most absurd moments of the year (sorted chronologically). Don’t worry, the rest of these stories are much shorter, so keep reading.
(1) Right in the middle of spring practice on Feb. 17, with coaches raving about team chemistry and noting massive improvement from the previous year, junior safety Matt Elamtweeted out a picture that looks like junior defensive end Dominique Easley riding his scooter inside the Florida football facility and around the Gator Head the players touch before heading out to the field each week. (2) One week after playing his last game as a member of the Gators basketball team, then-senior point guard Erving Walker found himself in trouble with the law when he was charged on March 30 with two misdemeanors for allegedly stealing a taco from a street vendor and evading police in Gainesville, FL. (3) Need a lesson on how to turn off an employer? Veteran wide receiver Jabar Gaffney went off on an epic Twitter rant on April 12, sending out derogatory statements about his wife and cousin (fellow former Gators star cornerback Lito Sheppard) only to claim three hours later that his account was hacked. (4) What better way to honor your favorite player than to get your hair cut and designed to look like him? That’s what San Antonio Spurs fan Patrick Gonzalez did for forward Matt Bonner. Gonzalez’s hair cut nearly got him suspended from school on May 16, but it also got Bonner’s attention and resulted in a pair of tickets and a meeting at a playoff game. (5) After some rather mundane barbs went back-and-forth between Florida head coach Will Muschamp and Texas A&M Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin over the summer, Mayor Nancy Berry of College Station, TX decided to post a comedic video of her poking good-natured fun at the former Texas defensive coordinator on June 1.
(6) Hours after taking home the first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history on June 10, Gators track & field suffered a serious scare in the air when its plane suffered a cracked windshield at 37,000 feet and underwent a rough landing in Tuscaloosa, AL. The windshield shattered after the plane landed but everyone was OK. (7) How do you answer a quarterback controversy and answer questions about which signal caller is going to start the first game of the season? Start both of them! That’s what Muschamp did on Sept. 1 when sophomores Jacoby Brissett (quarterback) and Jeff Driskel (wide receiver) both came out with the starting offense on its first play from scrimmage against Bowling Green. (8) With Muschamp leading the team, he is sure to find his way on this list at least once per year. In a 13-day span, Muschamp made headlines by being himself. After Florida defeated LSU at home on Dec. 7, he decided to celebrate by crowd surfing over his own players in the locker room. Two weeks later, at halftime against South Carolina, Muschamp vented his frustration about the officiating to Brady Ackerman of the Gator Radio Network. He saw an official walking by as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms and made sure to make it known how upset he was at some of the calls in the first half. “Well, we just gotta continue to capitalize on what we’re doing and OVERCOME THE ADVERSITY ON THE FIELD!” (9) With ESPN’s College GameDay in Gainesville for the South Carolina game, having former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte on set as the guest picker was an easy and obvious decision for the network. Never did ESPN guess that he would find difficulty in reading off the list of picks provided for him. (10) Why is Chad Johnson in Gainesville … and why is he meeting with Florida? Those were questions fans asked on Nov. 2 when it was revealed that the NFL free agent wide receiver – fresh off being embarrassed on national television when he was cut by the Miami Dolphins after being arrested for allegedly hitting his wife – had shown up in town and was taking pictures with players on the team one day before UF took on Missouri.
1 » American swimmers Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps will be seeing plenty of each other in the pool during the 2012 London Olympics, but according to the Associated Press they are also sleeping under the same roof. Lochte and Phelps are two of six swimmers in one four-bedroom suite in the athletes’ village, the AP reports, with Phelps staying in the only single-bed room.
2 » FOX Sports announced Wednesday that the Fox College Football Pregame Show, set to air each Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and be hosted by Erin Andrews, will also include former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington as co-stars. The network also detailed some of Andrews’s other duties for FOX Sports. She will serve as a dugout reporter for the MLB’s National League Championship Series and World Series as well as a sideline reporter for some of the network’s top NFL games including on Thanksgiving and during the playoffs.
3 » It took an appeal to get her into the Olympics but now that she is there Australian steeplechase runner Genevieve LaCaze plans to make a name for herself – starting with competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase heats on August 4, her 23rd birthday. “I want to run in the high 9:20s and that should definitely get me to the final and I’ll be up against the top women in the world,” she told the Herald Sun. “I don’t think anything will stop me if I get to that point. How long is it – nine minutes of pain. How hard can it be?” And if she doesn’t medal in London, England? “The fact that I’ve made London 2012 is only going to make me keep going to Rio ,” she added.
4 » Named to the “All-Summer League Team” after posting averages of 17.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists for the Washington Wizards last week in Las Vegas, NV, former Florida Gators guard Bradley Beal was still hard of himself, noting that he must improve his shooting efficiency and be more aggressive on the court (he’s right on both counts). “Honestly, if I feel as though I’m open, coach is going to tell me to shoot it. It’s times I was open and passed and coach got all on my head [telling me to shoot], so I mean, certain situations, I’m an unselfish player,” Beal told the Washington Post. “I’d rather get somebody else going. I’ll eventually get going myself. That’s just my mentality. But it’s really just staying focused and staying within the flow of the game, actually.”
5 » The New England Patriots pulled linebacker Brandon Spikes off the active/physically unable to perform list on Wednesday after he passed his physical following offseason knee surgery. Spikes missed eight regular season games in 2011 but played great in the NFL Playoffs, recording 26 tackles and sack, nabbing an interception and forcing a fumble in three postseason games.
6 » Below are player profiles for former Gators striker Abby Wambach and defender Heather Mitts, two members of the U.S. Women’s National Team competing in the Olympics. Team USA won its first game on Wednesday 4-2 over France; Wambach’s header at 19’ cut an early 2-0 deficit in half and gave the Americans the momentum they needed to pull out the come-from-behind victory.
1 » Making an appearance on 1010 XL radio on Tuesday, executive director of sports and entertainment for the City of Jacksonville Alan Verlander confirmed that tickets for the Navy/Marines Corps Classic will be bundled with the Jacksonville Jaguars-Indianapolis Colts game and will begin at $1,000. That package would include two tickets to watch the Florida Gators take on the Georgetown Hoyas on an aircraft carrier and two more to see Jacksonville-Indianapolis on that Thursday. Verlander also noted on the program that a well-known artist will hold a concert before the Florida-Georgetown game. A press release is supposed to be available Thursday with tickets going on sale Monday. OGGOA reached out to Verlander late Tuesday and is currently awaiting his reply.
2 » The University of Florida has chosen former Gators outfielder Preston Tucker to represent the school when the men’s athletic program accepts the 2012 Capital One Cup at the ESPYs in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday. It is the second-straight year that Florida’s men’s program has won the award; forward Chandler Parsons was in L.A. to accept the award one year ago.
3 » Former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team star Abby Wambach is a part of the latest edition of ESPN Magazine – “The Body Issue.” In it, Wambach and a number of other big-name athletes bare all in carefully chosen poses that show plenty of skin but hide their private parts. Check out the picture of Wambach in the magazine, an extensive interview with her about the process and a video of her discussing the experience (below).
4 » The Gators announced the hirings of two more coaches over the last few days as Janice Olivencia was added to the women’s golf team as an assistant on Friday and Nic Peterson was named an assistant track coach (jumps) on Monday. Olivencia, who played for Texas, served as an assistant for South Florida last season after spending seven years playing professionally. UF notes that “she was the first Puerto Rican woman to have ever qualified to play on the Ladies European Tour.” Peterson comes to Florida after a successful career as an assistant at Texas Christian by way of Nebraska, where he competed and served as a volunteer coach.
Extra BIT » Though she did not confirm it directly, new FOX sports reporter/host Erin Andrewsdid not dismiss the fact that she interviewed for a hosting gig on X Factor, a story first reported by SPORTSbyBROOKS and more recently by Entertainment Weekly. EW (and E! Online) noted on Monday that Andrews has some stiff competition for the gig going up against names like Stacy Kiebler, Mario Lopez and Rocsi Diaz (among others). “Sources emphasize that prospective hosts are still being interviewed and actual testing for the gig is not expected for several more weeks,” EW reports.
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