Florida Gators star C Neal Walk, 67, has died

Florida Gators center Neal Walk, the highest-drafted player in the basketball program’s history, passed away Sunday night at the age of 67, according to AZ Central Sports.

Walk, the No. 2 overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft out of Florida, was a senior captain for the Gators under Tommy Barlett and led the basketball program to its first postseason appearance, the 1969 NIT.

At the time of his departure from Florida, after being named the team’s first All-American, the lefty was the programs all-time leading scorer. To this day, he is the Gators’ rebounding leader (1,181) and holds team records for most rebounds in a game (31), average points per game (20.8) and rebounds per game (15.3) for a career.

Continue Reading » Florida Gators star C Neal Walk, 67, has died

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FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

1 » Former Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine signed with the Indianapolis Colts this week after spending time in both the Arena Football League and Fall Experimental Football League last season. Okine, who was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Houston Texans last May, did not make the team’s regular-season roster. He picked up 28 tackles and 5.5 sacks for the AFL’s Orlando Predators.

2 » Florida head coach Jim McElwain made a statement with his 2015 recruiting class, proving that the Gators were not only able to close strong but also add some out-of-state commitments to the fold. Overall, UF locked up five players from the state of Georgia – including rising athlete Chris Williamson – last cycle after not grabbing a single Peach State prospect in 2014. McElwain this week told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Michael Carvell why he has made Georgia such a priority. “I think [it was due to a] couple things,” McElwain said of why UF had success recruiting the area. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited the area in the past. That obviously helps. But for us, our thought is [to lock down] a five-hour radius around Gainesville. And with that being said, that goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Okine, McElwain, Noah, Arnold

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Bonner, McCray, Villegas headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees

Seven former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Matt Bonner (basketball), Nicole McCray (volleyball) and Camilo Villegas (men’s golf) – will be inducted as members of the UF Athletic Hall of Fame’s 2015 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Tuesday that the honors will be bestowed upon these former players at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 10 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are divided into three distinct categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.

The remainder of the 2014 class includes Gator Greats Camilo Benedetti (men’s golf), Beth Farmer (women’s track & field, cross country), Candice Scott (women’s track & field) and Stephanie Zunich Donley (women’s swimming).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments…
Continue Reading » Bonner, McCray, Villegas headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees

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Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

Former Florida Gators soccer star Heather Mitts, a three-time Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Team and 2013 inductee into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame, recently traded in her cleats for a microphone.

A major part of the Gators’ 1998 NCAA Championship-winning soccer team, Mitts went on to have a 12-year professional career before officially retiring in March 2013. She has since decided to embark on a career in sports broadcasting, which she actually began years ago as a part-time soccer analyst for FOX Sports and ESPN.

Now a sideline reporter (football) and analyst (soccer) for the SEC Network, Mitts will be returning to Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday as part of the broadcast team that will cover Florida’s football game against Eastern Michigan, the first-ever Gators contest that will be aired live on the network.

OnlyGators.com sat down with Mitts for 20 minutes on Thursday. She spoke at length about playing most of her professional career with a Florida teammate and close friend in Abby Wambach, moving into a broadcasting role, her love for the Gators and her admiration for UF head coach Becky Burleigh.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: How tough of a decision was it for you to ultimately retire from the game you love and hang up your cleats for good?
HEATHER MITTS: “You know what? It wasn’t actually that hard because I just felt like I had a lot of injuries towards the end of my career and I was able to do something that I loved for, gosh, as any years as it was. Since college, I literally thought I was going to play one or two years post-college, and I was able to go to three Olympics and one World Cup. To be able to kind of retire on a high note as well, with the Gold medal, being 35 years old with all the injuries that I had, it was just kind of like the right time for me to walk away. I felt really content with my decision.”

Continue Reading » Friday Final: Gators soccer star Heather Mitts returns to Gainesville with SEC Network

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4 BITS: SEC Network, Horschel, Smith, Calathes

1 » With just six weeks to go until the launch of the SEC Network, there are still plenty of cable and satellite companies that have not come to an agreement on terms with ESPN to carry the channel. However, according to FOXSports.com, Comcast appears to be the next in line to make a deal with the World Wide Leader in Sports. Company spokesman John Demming claims that Comcast and ESPN are “working out final details” for the network with an agreement expected to be announced “in the near future.” Currently, the SEC Network is only scheduled to go live on AT&T Uverse, DISH Network and Google fiber. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable are the other major entities that have not agreed with ESPN, though Comcast’s agreement to purchase TWC for $45 billion will likely make that contract signing easier. (Same with AT&T attempting to acquire DirecTV in a similar deal.) Smaller cable companies are expected to come to terms to carry the channel once the larger deals are struck. Florida Gators fans concerned about whether Cox Communications will have the station should take solace in the fact that it would be bad business and public relations for the SEC Network to go live without fans of one of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference able to watch it.

The SEC Network on Monday also announced that 10-year veteran anchor Dari Nowkhah has reached a multi-year deal with ESPN an will host the station’s “weeknight news and information show,” called SEC Now. The new show will debut on Thursday, Aug. 14 at 6 p.m. [Pictures: Set renderings]

Continue Reading » 4 BITS: SEC Network, Horschel, Smith, Calathes

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Former Gators FB Larry Dupree, 71, passes away

Former Florida Gators fullback Larry Dupree, one of the best players in program history and a member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, passed away from a heart attack on Sunday at the age of 71.

The sixth player in Florida football history to be named an All-American, Dupree earned the honor as the lone team captain in 1964, the same year he became the third rusher in Southeastern Conference history to receive three career first-team All-SEC nods.

He was also revered by his teammates that same season as the recipient of the Fergie Ferguson Award, given by the Gators annually to honor a senior “who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”

According to The Gainesville Sun, Dupree never missed a game in his collegiate career.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wuerffel, Winslow, Culpepper

1 » Offers are coming in fast and furious for quarterback Tim Tebow – just not from NFL teams. Last week an AFL team, the L.A. KISS, offered Tebow a three-year contract that could be “worth millions” Yes, the KISS are owned by the band of the same name. No, Tebow will not be playing there. Also an unlikely destination for Tebow is Russia, though he did receive an offer of $1 million to play two games with the Moscow Black Storm. “We have offered him $1 million for two games,” team owner Mikhail Zaitsman told Russia Beyond the Headlines. “I talked with him personally and he wanted to go.” Well, yes and no. “[Tebow’s agents are] thinking of using him as a motivational speaker. They don’t want him to play football,” Zaitsman admitted.

What Tebow has actually been doing as of late is working out in Southern California. He first spotted outside a USC gym on Sept. 10 and was then captured on film throwing on a baseball field just days later. Videos at the bottom of this post. A friend of OnlyGators.com spotted Tebow at a Los Angeles, CA, restaurant Wednesday evening. Tebow has not spoken with the media since being released.

2 » The Florida Gators officially announced Thursday that former quarterback Danny Wuerffel will serve as the honorary Mr. Two Bits ahead of Saturday’s game against the Tennessee Volunteers. Wuerffel, who OnlyGators.com first reported will be honored at the game for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, is the second former player to serve in this role after running back Errict Rhett did fantastic job prior to the season opener against Toledo. Check out OnlyGators.com’s interview with Wuerffel from Aug. 29 and conversation with Rhett following his performance.

UF writer Scott Carter spoke with the real and original Mr. Two Bits, George Edmonson, who said he approves of the new tradition. “That’s great,” he said. “I was pleased to hear about it. They wanted to check with me before they did it and I told them I think that’s a great idea. I feel honored that some of these celebrities would portray me out there on the field before the game.”

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Three legendary Florida Gators – Rick Casares, Larry Travis, Hans Tanzler – have passed away

A trio of well-known and highly-successful former Florida Gators football players has passed away in the last two months with fullback Rick Casares, on Friday, becoming the latest to meet his maker. He was 82.

From 1951-53, Casares played football and basketball at Florida but had his career cut short when he was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He was the first player in the history of the Gators football program to score a touchdown (and kick an extra point) in a bowl game – doing so in the 1953 Gator Bowl – and also served as a kicker for Florida. He went 13-for-13 on field goals in 1951.

A captain in both sports, Casares won multiple All-SEC honors and was even named an honorable mention All-American. On the hardwood, he led the Gators basketball team in scoring and rebounding in consecutive seasons, averaging 14.9 points and 11.3 rebounds in 1951-52 and 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 1952-53.

“He was the best to ever play here in my opinion,” said program historian Norm Carlson in a conversation with UF’s website. “He was an incredible athlete. If they needed him to play quarterback, he would play quarterback. If they asked him to play linebacker, he would do that and knock somebody’s head off. He was a great fullback. He could do anything on the football field and look so good doing it.”

When he was eligible after his military service was complete, Casares was drafted with the 18th overall pick in the second round of the 1954 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He played for three teams over 12 years (1955-66), racking up career numbers of 5,797 rushing yards, 1,588 receiving yards and 60 touchdowns in 130 games.

Continue Reading » Three legendary Florida Gators – Rick Casares, Larry Travis, Hans Tanzler – have passed away

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