Abby Wambach named AP Athlete of the Year

Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach, who captained and led the U.S. Women’s National Team to exhilarating victories and a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup over the summer in Germany, has been named the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

Wambach dominated the balloting, receiving 65 of 214 first-place votes, and became the first individual soccer player in the country’s history to win the award.

She scored four goals for the United States in the World Cup, leading the Americans to the final match where they eventually lost to Japan on penalty kicks. Wambach received the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot awards by FIFA for her efforts during the event.

In addition to her soccer awards, she was also named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation in October and was announced in September as one of eight former letter winners who will be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class. She was also a late entry and eventual winner of the ESPY award for Best Play in July.

Wambach’s heroic efforts over the summer included a game-tying goal two minutes into injury time during extra time against Brazil in the quarterfinals, what became a game-winning goal against France in the semifinals, and a near game-winning goal 14 minutes into extra time against Japan in the finals.

Photo Credit: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

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Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

The Miami Dolphins will be hosting a special Gator Day celebration on Sunday to honor the 2008 national champion Florida Gators football team that won the 2009 BCS Championship 24-14 over the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 8, 2009 in Miami Gardens, FL. To commemorate the occasion, OGGOA sat down with Dolphins vice president Nat Moore, who had much to do with setting up this unique celebration.

Moore played for the Gators and head coach Doug Dickey from 1972-73 after transferring from a junior college. He played running back for two years and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference as well as honorable mention All-American awards in 1972 after running 145 times for 845 yards with nine touchdowns and catching 25 passes for 351 yards and four more scores. A Gator Great who was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978, Moore earned his degree from Florida two years after entering the NFL.

After the 1973 season, Moore was selected by Miami with the No. 78 overall pick in the third round of the 1974 NFL Draft. He joined a Dolphins team coming off of back-to-back Super Bowl wins including the perfect season of 1972. Miami moved Moore to wide receiver, and he rewarded them with a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro season in 1977, when he hauled in a league-high 12 touchdowns. Moore retired from football after spending his entire 13-year career with Miami. He broke nearly ever Dolphins receiving record at the time of his retirement, concluding his career with 510 catches for 7,547 yards and 74 touchdowns and earning him a spot in the team’s Honor Roll.

Since retiring from football, Moore has been involved in a variety of activities. He serves as a vice president with Miami, runs the Nat Moore Foundation and at one point was a broadcaster with Sun Sports for Gators football. He now does preseason broadcast work with the Dolphins in addition to his other duties.

OGOGA had the opportunity to speak to Moore for a half hour about his time at Florida, experience in the NFL, idea for a celebration of the Gators and opinions about some players he has come across throughout his career as a broadcaster.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it that led you to the University of Florida considering you were born in Tallahassee and went to high school in Miami?
NAT MOORE: “As a kid growing up in Miami, I felt like I really wanted to get away to focus on my studies and have less distractions. You go to Gainesville and basically you’re there for two things. One – to get a good and solid education, and two – a chance to develop your craft in whatever athletic endeavor it is. For me, it gave me a chance where all my friends would be new friends unless they were up there from Miami or Tallahassee. It was close enough that I wasn’t too far away from home if I got homesick. It was a university that my basketball coach in junior college had played baseball with Doug Dickey, so that was the entry into attending the University of Florida. It was always the right place for me, and they were an up-and-coming program in the SEC.”

Read the rest of our interview with Nat Moore…after the break!
Continue Reading » Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

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Youngblood: “That’s when I heard the snap.”

With two weeks ago being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he released 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 Los Angeles 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 and his take on today’s game. This is part three of that interview..

Part I – Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments
Part II – Youngblood: “He doesn’t know how crazy I am.”

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s talk a little bit about the new book. It obviously covers all of the people who have inspired you in your life. Outside of your family and coaches, who would you say is the one person who really lit a fire under you and helped you realize how good of a football player you were or how dominant you could be?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “From a football perspective, I would have to say the number one influence had to be Merlin [Olsen]. The life-changing moment for a young kid coming out of the University of Florida, a defensive linemen drafted into what was left of the Fearsome Foursome – one of the dominant forces in the 60s in the National Football League. When I got there in 1971, two of them had moved on and I was trying to find a way to figure out how I could fit into the picture. I knew that I definitely wasn’t going to play inside, but how do I fit in next to Merlin Olsen? I thought it was going to be a short trip. Merlin certainly was a tremendous influence on helping me understand how you played at that level.”

AS: Some will say that the best story in the book is about one of the scariest moments of your life, when you had a gun in your eye. The trigger was pulled but luckily for you the chamber was empty. Everyone will be reading about that in detail in the book, but how did you get in that situation in the first place and what happened when you heard the click and nothing happened?
JY: “It was really an innocent situation. We were at a club in Logan, Utah one evening just having a quiet beer. I had a buddy with his girlfriend with him and we had work the next morning so we called it early around 9:30 or 10:00 and went to our cars parked out behind the establishment there. I walked out along with one of my old wrestling buddies from Idaho. These two guys were hassling one of our friends and the girl. I saw it and walked up and said, ‘What’s the problem here?’ These two little loudmouths kind of turned around and tried to get in my face a little bit. I said, ‘No, no, no. Just go on. Leave these kids alone.” I broke it up. Nothing physical, just stepped in between and said we should go our separate ways. This one guy, he takes off and it’s kind of dark in the place without a whole lot of light but enough. I didn’t think anything of it. The other guy was standing there and I said he should go on and get about his business.

“My buddy had gone ahead of me and he was at the car. He hollered at me, ‘Look out, Jack! He’s got a gun!’ [The gunman] had slipped between two cars and I didn’t see him. He came up behind me, and by the time I was hollered at, he was sticking the gun in the back of my head and when I spun around, it was in my eye. That’s when I heard the snap. At that moment the pain was excruciating. My first thought was that he just put my eye out. The next thing I remember – because you go into a state of shock to a certain degree – was [my friend] Darrell going ‘Don’t kill him Jack! Don’t kill him!’

“I got him by the throat on the hood of a car, and I’ve got the gun. I took the gun away from him and pinned him and do not remember any of that. And then I looked down as I’m over him, I notice that there’s blood gushing on him. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that’s nasty. That’s my blood.’ I was bleeding all over everything. Fortunately, there again, divine intervention. You don’t catch an empty chamber by chance.”

Read the rest of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!
Continue Reading » Youngblood: “That’s when I heard the snap.”

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Youngblood: “He doesn’t know how crazy I am.”

With last Saturday being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he released 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 Los Angeles 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. This is part two of that interview. Part three will be published next week.

Part I – Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You succeeded very quickly when you started in the NFL, just like you did in college. In back-to-back seasons you won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, but a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers – Mel Blount and Jack Lambert – took the overall NFL award. I was always curious if you felt a little slighted not getting that honor?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “I never looked at those awards as if they were something that you should covet. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged, but that’s not why you played. You played to win ballgames during the regular season and then in the postseason. You’re paid to be the best, was my perspective. My job was to be the best defensive end in the National Football League. That’s what I was paid to do, and that’s what I expected myself to do. All of the trophies, all of the plaques, all of the dinners, all of the acknowledgements were just icing on the cake. Defensive linemen don’t get Players of the Year. Linebackers and defensive backs do because they’re intercepting balls, going back for touchdowns, having 400 tackles in a year, that type of stuff. That’s linebacker stuff. That’s not the working man. [Laughing]”

AS: Let’s talk about your time with the L.A. Rams when, let’s face it, the team had a crazy amount of success. From 1973-79 you won seven-straight NFC West titles, five NFC Championship games and played in a Super Bowl. What was it like to be part of such a dominant organization for such a long period of time?
JY: “There’s no question that it was rewarding to be an integral part of the nucleus of a good franchise. It was a really good football team. It was rewarding and at the same time, because we had got our nose busted on us four times with the door slamming in our face in the championship game. That was humiliating. It was a great experience. I loved my players. We truly had – and this wasn’t just rhetoric – we had a family. We had 12 or 15 guys that, if not once or twice a week we would get 12-15 of the guys together and we’d eat someplace, bring the wives and bring the kids. We had that kind of a close relationship. To be good, to be really good, I believe you have to have trust in your fellow players. That was a big thing that I think we grew to and that became one of the factors integral to how we played as well as we did in the 1970s, especially on defense.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!
Continue Reading » Youngblood: “He doesn’t know how crazy I am.”

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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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SIX BITS: Harvin’s healthy, Raymond wins, books, soccer & volleyball split, Floyd’s repayment

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin is healthy – finally. After being nagged by injuries throughout his college career and having persistent migraines limit the amount of time he could practice and play for the Minnesota Vikings during his first two years in the NFL, Harvin has finally cleared all of that up and hopes to become the dynamic playmakers his teammates, coaches and fans know he can be. He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week that he has “tremendous confidence in my ability” and proved that Sunday, taking the opening kickoff 103 yards down the field for a touchdown. Having missed fewer than two practices in the offseason (for precautionary reasons due to sore ribs), Harvin is ready and raring to go and hopes to continue the electricity he showcased over the weekend.

2 » Former Florida tennis player Lisa Raymond has always seemed to excel in doubles action, where she is 700-251 all-time as a professional and has been a part of 71 title-winning duos (she was even half of the No. 1 pair in the world back in 2000). Raymond, with four Grand Slam doubles titles to her name this century, was looking to win her first this decade, teaming with Liezel Huber at the 2011 U.S. Open at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Entering the tournament as the No. 4 seed, Raymond and Huber made it all the way to the finals where they defeated No. 3 seed Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova 4-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) to win Raymond’s fifth Grand Slam and earn her the world No. 1 ranking she has been looking to recapture for nearly 11 years. At 38-years-old, Raymond would be considered by most to be a relic of professional tennis, but she told The New York Times that her age was an advantage going into the event. “I think that’s probably one of our biggest assets as a team is our experience,” she said after the victory. “We have years and years and years of being in finals of Slams, winning the championships, being down breaks in the third set to win or lose a Slam.”

3 » Two former Gators in the team’s Ring of Honor and the Pro Football Hall of Fame – running back Emmitt Smith and linebacker Jack Youngblood – are releasing brand new books chronicling their lives. Smith’s is titled Game On: Find Your Purpose – Pursue Your Dream “outlines the principles that helped him become a winner on and off the football field.” Youngblood’s – Because It Was Sunday – The Legend of Jack Youngblood – gives “readers and football fans an unprecedented, candid account of [his] remarkable life journey.” He will be at the University of Florida’s Alumni Hall promoting the book on Oct. 1, the day it is scheduled to be released.

4 » No. 9 Florida soccer (5-2) split a pair of games over the weekend, dropping a heartbreaker 3-2 to the No. 5 Florida State Seminoles on Friday before soundly defeating the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 5-0 on Sunday. UF and FSU went back-and-forth Friday with the Seminoles scoring at 4’ and 55’ and the Gators knocking goals in at 45’ (junior midfielder Erika Tymrak) and 68’ (junior MF Holly King). With the match tied 2-2, Florida State’s Tiffany McCarthy scored her second goal of the evening and fifth of the season at 72’ to push her team to victory. Florida rebounded Sunday with a shutout victory including goals from freshman forward Tessa Andujar, Tymrak (16’), freshman defender Lauren Silver (24’), sophomore MF Caroline Triglia (43’) and senior F Lindsay Thompson (58’).

5 » Competing in the Nike Big Four Classic in Palo Alto, CA, No. 7 Gators volleyball (7-2) also split their weekend matches. Florida defeated the No. 10 Texas Longhorns in five sets (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) on Friday prior to being beat in similar fashion by the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal (17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 13-15) on Sunday. Senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel led the way for the Gators with a total of 35 kills and 33 digs in back-to-back double-doubles, and senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy followed suit with 26 kills and 59 assists in two double-double performances of her own.

6 » Gators sophomore defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd, as part of his punishment by the NCAA, is required to make arrangements to repay $2,700 to a charity of his choosing in addition to having already sat out the first two games of the 2011 season. Many OGGOA readers have asked via e-mail, comments and Twitter how Floyd will come up with the money before the Tennessee game on Saturday. The answer is simple: he doesn’t have to. According to a NCAA compliance expert who spoke with us over the weekend, Floyd – in conjunction with the University of Florida – only must submit to the NCAA his decision on how and over what period of time he plans to make payments. Further details on what Floyd chooses to do will likely be unavailable going forward, but the concern over him being able to pay the money prior to playing should be squashed in the interim.

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Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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 try to catch them with Gator Bites. Enjoy.

» Remember back in April when Florida Gators forwards junior Erik Murphy and redshirt freshman Cody Larson were arrested for allegedly trying to break into a car? Since then the felony chargers were reduced to misdemeanors for both parties and Murphy accepted a plea deal that netted him fines, community service and a few other minor penalties. Larson’s situation, on the other hand, is not even close to resolved. The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reports that he will have a Oct. 31 sentencing date to determine what legal action will be taken against him. He had previously entered a not guilty plea but could change it on the day of sentencing. As individual Florida basketball drills begin this week and practice starts on Oct. 15, according to Brockway, Larson’s status remains up in the air. The duo is currently indefinitely suspended from the team, though the expectation is that Murphy will be reinstated now that his legal situation is settled.

» Gators baseball received a commitment Wednesday evening as outfielder Max White chose to continue his career in Gainesville, FL. Also a left-handed pitcher, White is recovering from shoulder surgery and chose Florida over LSU, Central Florida, N.C. State, Maryland and North Florida, according to the Sun. “I have always wanted to play for Florida,” he told the paper. “To be in the situation where all of my hard work could possibly lead me to play for them — that is a great feeling. I just want to keep at it and I especially do not want them UF to see me slack off.”

» Florida head football coach Will Muschamp is known for his fiery demeanor on the sidelines. This fan video shot from the season opener against Florida Atlantic shows a mini-tantrum he threw during the game.

Read the rest of the Gator Bites (and watch four videos) after the break!
Continue Reading » Gator Bites for Thursday, September 8th

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Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Alex Brown (football), Abby Wambach (soccer) and Udonis Haslem (men’s basketball) – will be inducted as the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2012 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Wednesday that the honors will be bestowed upon them at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 6, 2012 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2012 class includes Gator Greats Hazel Clark Riley (women’s track & field), Kristen Guise Lee (gymnastics), Jeff Morrison (men’s tennis) and Stephanie Nickitas (women’s tennis) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Travis (football).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the break.
Continue Reading » Brown, Wambach, Haslem, five others will be UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2012 inductees

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