FOUR BITS: Wambach, Harvey, Jackson, Rainey

1 » U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is indeed a “G,” not due to the fact that she is one of the faces of Gatorade but rather because she used her “guile and gamesmanship” to help the United States achieve a 4-3 extra-time victory over Canada in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics on Monday. Wambach told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that it was her subtle urging that led the referees to call a rare delay of game penalty on the Canadian goalkeeper, who was holding the ball in the penalty box for up to 15 seconds at times when rules state the ball should be out after six seconds. “I wasn’t yelling. I was just counting,” Wambach told Dan Wetzel of her decision to run next to the referee while heading back down the field. “Probably did it five or seven times.” And of the play in question in which the referee finally blew her whistle? “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle.”

Canada, of course, believes they were robbed in the match. (The call resulted in an indirect free kick inside the box; a handball was called on the kick and Wambach tied the match 3-3 on a penalty goal.) Though Wambach admits that the call is rare, she notes that it is well within the rules. Her subtle pestering of the referee almost assuredly helped the call be made when it ordinarily might not have been. “Yes it’s uncharacteristic,” she said. “But the rules are the rules. You can say it’s gamesmanship, you can say it’s smart, but I’m a competitor. We needed to get a goal. They’re trying to waste time; I’m trying to speed it up. [...] I think making the referee aware of a situation, there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, the ref made the decision on her own.”

2 » A former No. 8 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, former Florida Gators defensive end Derrick Harvey was cut from his third team over the course of a year when the Cincinnati Bengals let him go on Sunday. Harvey, who signed with the team just four months ago, was released before participating in a single preseason game. After being released by the Jaguars last July, Harvey was picked up by the Denver Broncos but barely played last season and spent most of it as a healthy scratch on game day. His NFL career may very well be over.

3 » The commitment of three-star offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (Moultrie, GA), who is unranked by Rivals, to the Florida Gators last week came as a surprise to many considering the team has few open slots remaining and a number of highly-rated prospects on its board. The Gators, however, knew exactly what they were doing by brining Jackson on board and it appears as if they were early to what may become a very crowded party. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jackson received “last-minute pleas by Alabama and Florida State” before committing to Florida. He already had a firm scholarship offer from Vanderbilt in his possession. “People have missed on him,” said Rush Propst, Jackson’s high school coach. “His only true offer until a few days ago was Vanderbilt, and they couldn’t believe nobody elsewas on him. Neither could I.”

4 » Running back Chris Rainey is turning heads in Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, a fact that should come as no surprise to Florida fans whose necks were often sore from watching him run in Gainesville, FL. USA Today’s Jim Corbett wrote a few days ago that “Rainey has been the Steelers’ buzz guy since he began flashing during organized team activities, and he’s carried it over to training camp.” Almost everyone from the team’s president on down believes Rainey can make an instant impact with Pittsburgh this season though head coach Mike Tomlin is being a bit more cautious considering how early it is in the process.

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FOUR BITS: All-Americans, The Swamp, Harvin

1 » Four Florida Gators were named to various All-American teams on Thursday. Junior baseball players catcher Mike Zunino and left-handed pitcher/designated hitter Brian Johnson were both honored as Louisville Slugger All-Americans by Collegiate Baseball newspaper, while softball’s senior centerfielder Michelle Moultrie and sophomore right-hander Hannah Rogers were awarded by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association. Zunino and Moultrie earned first-team honors, and Johnson and Rogers were named to the second team.

2 » A press release issued on Thursday announced that the University of Florida and LIDS® Sports Group have reached an agreement for the retailer “to operate and manage the official team stores” located within Ben Hill Griffin Stadium “as well as other special event concessions for the University’s baseball, basketball, and gymnastics athletic programs, among others.” The now-former Florida Gators Sports Shop will be re-branded as the Gator Locker Room, a name similar to the LIDS Locker Room storefronts that can be found throughout the state of Florida. The two stores inside The Swamp “will be equipped with custom embroidery and screen printing capabilities…which will allow fans to personalize their game day apparel.” There will also be a loyalty card available that “provides points with every purchase that earns rewards such as exclusive discounts and promotional offers, as well as access to special products and events.” LIDS also plans to leverage Gators merchandise in existing locations throughout the state, which will give Florida fans a greater choice of merchandise outside of Gainesville, FL. “We wanted a company that offered what Gator fans are looking for – a vast variety of quality merchandise available at convenient store locations around the state,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in the release. “LIDS fits those requirements, as it is among the nation’s premier sports retailers. We are confident Florida fans will find just what they are looking for at the Gator Locker Room or at LIDS Locker Room locations.”

3 » Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin explained that he is sitting out of organized team activities as a precaution not because his recently operated upon shoulder is requiring him avoid physical activity. “I feel great. No limitations. Got all my strength back. It’s just precaution,” Harvin said, according to the Associated Press. “They don’t want me to fall or do anything crazy right now during these drills. Hopefully next week I should be back out here.” Even less stressed about Harvin’s absence from the field (he is still at the facility running and exercising) is head coach Leslie Frazier. “I gave him a big hug when he showed up,” Frazier said. “He texted me Monday night, Memorial Day, because I wasn’t sure what his flight schedule was going to be. He said, ‘I’m in town, what doctors do I have to see tomorrow morning?’ I texted him back, ‘Is this the Percy Harvin? The real Percy Harvin?’ So just great for our meetings, great for our coaches to see him around.”

4 » In a new edition of the Gatorade online series Inside the Edge, former Florida striker and current U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Wambach is filmed at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute as she learns “how to properly prepare her body from the inside out before hitting the field.”

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Florida’s Ryan Lochte, Gregg Troy featured in Gatorade’s new Win From Within commercial

Gatorade will premiere a brand new television commercial on Friday night as part of their Win From Within campaign featuring former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte and current Florida head swimming coach Gregg Troy.

Troy, who has also been named head men’s swimming coach for the 2012 London Olympics, discusses Lochte’s change of mindset from someone who liked to compete at swimming to an athlete who decided to become a world-class swimmer. Lochte is set to be one of the faces of the 2012 Olympics for the United States.

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TWO BITS: Siler re-signed, Warren loves playing; EXTRA: Wambach, Lochte in Gatorade spot

1 » Despite missing the entire 2011 after rupturing his Achilles, linebacker Brandon Siler was re-signed by the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend to a one-year deal with a total compensation of $750,000 that will keep him off of the market in 2012. Siler agreed to a one-year contract with Kansas City in the 2011 offseason, his agent David Canter told OGGOA, in order to prove that he was deserving of a multi-year deal with another team. He never had that opportunity, however, due to being injured before a single down of the regular season was ever played. Siler joined the Chiefs after spending four years with San Diego where he amassed 123 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. After playing solely as a reserve in 2007 and 2008, Siler started seven games in 2009 and five in 2010. He only played in 12 total games in 2010 due to injury.

2 » New England Patriots defensive tackle Gerard Warren loves football and so far the NFL has loved him back. Participating in his 11th season this year, Warren took a look back at much of his career this week with the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport. In his feature, Rapoport covers a story about Warren knowing C.J. Spiller when he was just a water boy at Florida, his giving back to the community, and how much love he has for his fellow players. Warren, who said he does not plan to retire “until they tear [the uniform] off me,” said, “The game is my life. This is my life. Sixty minutes, overtime, you can have hatred. Once the game is over with, you come back to being human beings again.”

Extra BIT » Former Gators striker Abby Wambach and former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte are featured in a new Gatorade commercial set to debut during the 2012 Rose Bowl. The duo are two of a number of athletes shown in the advertisement, which promotes a variety of the company’s products while introducing a new tagline: Win From Within. Lochte’s portion of the commercial, which features him in a Gators cap for one shot, was filmed at the pool at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

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Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

With Saturday being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he is releasing a brand new book the very same day, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Jack Youngblood sat down with us recently for an exclusive and extensive hour-long interview about his life and career.

Click here to read an OGGOA exclusive excerpt from Because It Was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood while learning more about the book.

The first University of Florida student-athlete to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Youngblood is also a member of Florida’s Ring of Honor, the College Football Hall of Fame and the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. He has as accomplished of a career as any player who has put on the orange and blue of the Gators after being named first-team All-SEC and All-America in 1970 and also being selected as the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft.

Youngblood went on to be named to seven Pro Bowls and be selected as a first-team All-Pro five times while also winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons (1975-76) and the St. Louis RamsMost Value Player award three times (1975-76, 1979). He played in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl and had his No. 85 retired by St. Louis prior to being inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame in 2001.

Since retiring for the game of football, Youngblood has done some acting work, served as an analyst with numerous media outlets, and co-hosted Wal-Mart’s Great Outdoors program, which used to air on ESPN on Saturday mornings. He also wrote a biography, has held a number of football administration jobs and continues to work to this day.

OGGOA’s three-part interview with Youngblood covers his college days and professional career while also highlighting some interesting stories and moments in his life.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school in Monticello, FL, you were a lot closer distance-wise to Florida State than Florida. Why did you end up choosing to play for the Gators and how did that recruiting process unfold for you?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “First of all, there was no recruiting process. [Laughing] That’s the crazy part about it. We were 25 miles from Tallahassee and we had a pretty good little football team back in 1966. We won the state championship. You would’ve thought we would’ve had some recruiting going on there. In all honesty, [there was] very little. I had no conscious idea that I was ever going to get an opportunity to play at the next level until Florida came up to me when we were celebrating after the championship game. They asked me if I wanted to come play football for the University of Florida.”

AS: Looking at recruiting as it stands today – with so many evaluation camps, services rating kids and tons of exposure – are you envious of how much attention high school players get or are you happy with how it used to work?
JY: “It’s a totally different world today. Our media contingent is just outrageous. You start tracking kids as they’re in 9th and 10th grade. [Laughing] I guess it’s because it is so expansive that you can do it today whereas in the past, it was a physical job literally.”

AS: Do you think there is a lot more pressure on high school kids these day with such high expectations at a young age? Perhaps they don’t get as much time to develop and become better players without scrutiny from the get-go?
JY: “It does put a tremendous amount of pressure on. A lot of them see an opportunity or think there is an opportunity where they can go and be like one of the ‘idols’ they watch on television and see play on Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t know if it’s going to get larger and larger as we move forward, but it probably will.”

AS: Coming out of high school, you were primarily an offensive lineman and linebacker. When Florida’s coaches wanted to move you to defensive line right away, what did you think about that? How difficult was the transition not only from high school to college but also from linebacker to defensive line?
JY: “First of all, it broke my heart when they told me that I was not going to be the middle linebacker. We had an All-American out of Tampa – Mike Kelly – Kelly was destined to be the middle linebacker. At 6’4” and 200 lbs. by my sophomore year, I had put on about 15 pounds, that’s a little gangly to be trying to play middle linebacker. They decided to put my hand on the ground and see what kind of skills I had there. It was a significant change, there was no question. The toughest part was having to put on muscle and strength so that I could play. I had some of the natural quickness and speed – I could run – but it was the size that was the hindrance. When you line up in front of Jim Yarbrough your first time on the practice field and you line up in front of him during a stand-up defensive end simulation. I got down in a two-point stance in front of Yarbrough and I still had to look up to him. [Laughing] That’s a scary thought.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!

Continue Reading » Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

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Gatorade goes Inside the Edge with Ryan Lochte

Former Florida Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte, now a six-time Olympic medalist (three gold) for the United States, shot a commercial with Gatorade that takes the viewer inside his training routine and mindset as he prepares for the 2012 London Olympics.

The owner of four world records including the 200-meter individual medley (long and short course), 400-meter individual medley (short course) and 4×200-meter freestyle relay (long course), he hopes lead Team USA with a Michael Phelps-like performance in 2012. In the commercial, Gatorade goes Inside the Edge with Lochte, who sports plenty of orange and blue for its duration.

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TWO BITS: Draftees staying? Fagan awarded.

1 » Of Florida Gators baseball’s four high school signees drafted in the first four rounds of the 2011 MLB Draft, at least two are expected to enroll in school and delay their professional debut three more years. One of them, right-handed pitcher Kyle Smith told the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter that college is most definitely in his future. “It’s a long shot I sign,” Smith told Porter. “I’m very committed to the University of Florida.” Smith was selected by the Kansas City Royls with the No. 126 overall pick in the fourth round. Porter previously noted that Smith’s advisor, who also works with RHP Michael Kelly (the No. 48 overall pick in the second round by the San Diego Padres), believes both players will be wearing orange and blue next year. “I honestly think [Kelly] fell too far to get a deal done,” he said. “I know he has a very, very strong college commitment.”

2 » Only a freshman, third baseman Kasey Fagan had a strong year for Gators softball, starting all 68 games she played and accounting for 41 hits, 43 runs, 22 RBI, 30 walks and 16 stolen bases. Her sister, shortstop/catcher Sami Fagan has committed to and will join Florida next season and hopes to have just as much early success. With the older Fagan capturing the Gatorade Softball Player of the Year award for the state of Florida twice (and the national award just last year), her younger sister has plenty to live up to…and did just that Thursday when she was honored with the 2011 version of the state award. According to The Gainesville Sun, Sami hit .693 last season, has a .629 mark for her high school career and notched a state-record 63-game hitting streak over the course of her sophomore and junior years.

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Tebow spurns Gatorade for…FRS Health Energy?

Though he briefly did sponsorship work for the company prior to the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos rookie quarterback Tim Tebow has decided not to sign an endorsement deal with Gatorade, the sports drink invented by University of Florida researchers in Gainesville, FL. Instead Tebow has agreed to a multi-year deal with the wellness drink company FRS Health Energy.

“I use their products regularly and can honestly say I believe FRS has helped me perform at my best on and off the field,” Tebow said in a statement. “I look forward to sharing my FRS story with fans and spreading the word on this amazing brand.”

According to CNBC’s Darren Rovell, FRS Health Energy first “got on the map three years ago by signing Lance Armstrong, who endorses the product and owns a piece of the company.” Rovell reports, according to XV Enterprises marketer Angel Gonzalez, that Tebow’s endorsement deal includes some equity in the company.

One of the reasons Tebow and his representatives picked FRS over Gatorade is because Tebow actually used the product while training for the combine. The company reportedly “became intrigued with Tebow when they heard he walked into a Gainesville GNC while training for the NFL combine to purchase the product,” Rovell reports.

Both Gatorade and Powerade were also vying for Tebow’s services.

Other endorsers for FRS Health Energy include Los Angeles Lakers point guard Derek Fisher and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.

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