LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

Back in Gainesville, FL over the weekend to be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class as a Gator Great, former Florida Gators linebacker Mike Peterson is enjoying his offseason while he waits for the NFL lockout situation to be settled so he can play football (hopefully) with the Atlanta Falcons next season.

Working out in Jacksonville, FL, Peterson sat down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging, in-depth interview Tuesday afternoon. A first-team All-American in 1998 and second-team All-Pro selection in 2005 who won a pair of Southeastern Conference Championships (1995-96) and a National Championship (1996) with Florida, he discussed at length his decision to play for the Gators, college career, NFL career, hall of fame induction, recent meeting with the team and foundation he began to help underprivileged families in both Gainesville and Atlanta, GA.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You were born and grew up in Alachua and Gainesville. How long after Florida offered you a scholarship did it take for you to give them your commitment?
MIKE PETERSON: “Not too long. The thing about it is: I never knew that I would go to Florida. I guess being from that area, you always say you’re going to leave home and go somewhere else. At the time, Coach Ron Zook was the linebacker coach and also the recruiting coordinator, so he convinced me to come on a visit. Once I came on a visit, man, it made no sense for me to go anywhere else. I had everything right there in my backyard. Shortly after they offered me the scholarship, I gave them my commitment.”

AS: Was your goal growing up to play for the Gators? Was there ever a time where you thought that might not happen or you might go somewhere else?
MP: “I was high on Michigan. Growing up, I said I wanted to get away. I went to high school there, elementary school, knew everything there, knew everybody there. I just considered I was going somewhere else. I visited Michigan – I was high on Michigan and Clemson – those were probably my top two. I was a quarterback coming out [of high school] and those were the two Division I schools that were going to give me a shot at quarterback. Once I visited Florida, man, it was hands-down where I needed to be.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Mike Peterson…after the break!
Continue Reading » LB Peterson: “I’m still in shock and even in awe.”

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SIX BITS: 12-0, Murphy, Tebow, Crowder, Harvey

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators volleyball (19-1, 12-0 SEC) kept its host streak alive Wednesday with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-13) sweep of the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-17, 2-10 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL. Senior outside hitter Callie Rivers dominated the contest with a match-high 11 kills and a career-high-tying four service aces. She also contributed five digs and a .524 hitting efficiency for a total of 15 points. Junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy backed up Rivers with her seventh-straight double-double to the tune of 11 kills and12 assists. Having completed a five-game homestand, Florida will hit the road for two three-game stretches over their final eight games of the regular season, which concludes on Nov. 26.

2 » Leaving during the third quarter with an injury as the Oakland Raiders dominated the Denver Broncos last week, it has been determined that former Gators wide receiver Louis Murphy suffered a bruised lung and will miss several weeks of action. The Raiders’ No. 1 receiver, Murphy got off to a fast start this season but has floundered in recent weeks while dealing with injuries and constant quarterback changes.

Four more BITS on Tebow, Crowder, Harvey and how you can own a Gators ring…
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: 12-0, Murphy, Tebow, Crowder, Harvey

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FOUR BITS: Sturgis, Rainey, soccer, Nelson

1 » Florida Gators junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was honored with a nomination to the 2010 Lou Groza Award preseason watch list late last week. Given annually to college football’s best place kicker, the award is being defended by UCLA’s Kai Forbath. Sturgis will have to compete with four other Southeastern Conference kickers and a total of 29 others from across the nation. Last week, Sturgis told reporters that he has been working on his accuracy all offseason. “I want to be more accurate on field goals,” he said. “I had some easy misses last year that I shouldn’t have had. That has obviously been my biggest struggle. That – and put the ball in the right spot for the kickoff team.” Unlike last season, when Jonathan Phillips was the team’s starter, Sturgis already has the job locked up.

2 » Florida head coach Urban Meyer and his coaching staff have been experimenting with using players at a variety of positions this offseason. With redshirt junior Chris Rainey, his move from running back to wide receiver appeared to be a given from the get-go. “I never thought I’d be a receiver,” Rainey said, “because all of the stuff I looked at on YouTube had receivers going across the middle and getting big hits. Now that might be me. I’m just going to try and keep myself from doing that.” That being said, Rainey is having a good time with his new position. “Receiver is fun,” he said, according to The Gainesville Sun. “You don’t get many injuries from it. You do a lot of running. It’s harder than running back, but I’m good at it. […] For receiver, you have to know everything. For running back, you know one thing and you’re done. Receiver is everything, whether you’re on the ball or off the ball.” Even blocking plays are simpler. “It’s way easier,” Rainey said about blocking downfield rather than picking up blitzes behind the line of scrimmage. “Especially when someone is coming at you, full speed, about 250 pounds and wanting to kill you.”

3 » Following up a big double-overtime victory against the Miami Hurricanes (0-1) on Friday, No. 11 Gators soccer (1-0) defeated the No. 25 Central Florida Knights 2-0 on the road in Orlando, FL. The game, which began at 7 p.m. and aired live on FOX Sports Florida, was put away at the top of the second half when junior midfielder/forward Tahnai Annis scored from eight yards out at 48′. Annis would double up less than five minutes later with a 10-yard shot to the far post at 52′ as UF went on to shutout UCF.

4 » After a rough 2009 season, Jacksonville Jaguars safety Reggie Nelson is looking to bounce back and return to the form that made him a first round pick coming out of college. Head coach Jack Del Rio believes that transformation is certainly a possibility. “What he’s doing right now gives him a chance,” Del Rio said. “He’s had some tough games, and when that happens, it can crush your confidence. We’re trying to build him back up right now.” Nelson may no longer be a starter, but he has been getting plenty of time in the preseason to prove that he deserves to get on the field a lot this season. “Whenever my number’s called, I just go play football,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to make the plays you can make, and if you don’t make one, you’ve got to move on from it. You can’t hold onto the last play. You’ve got to move on. You’re not going to do everything right. You can’t let the pressure bust the pipe.”

Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

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SIX BITS: Murphy, Harvin, Jenkins, Hill, Nelson

1 » Held out of action with the Oakland Raiders over the weekend, former Florida Gators wide receiver Louis Murphy continues to struggle to recover from a concussion he suffered during camp on Friday when he got kneed in the helmet by Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugah. He complained of a bad headache Sunday and showcased some other symptoms, leading the training staff to decide that it was best to hold him out of workouts. Murphy remains out of action and is now having trouble with sunlight, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Vittorio Tafur. Head coach Tom Cable told the Associated Press that Murphy will be sitting until he passes a series of tests…something that looks to be at least a few days away.

2 » After tweaking his ankle earlier in the day, former Gators WR Percy Harvin returned to Minnesota Vikings practice on Saturday without a noticeable limp. Unfortunately, Harvin missed practice Sunday and will be absent Monday as well after learning of a death in his family. OGGOA‘s thoughts go out to Harvin during this difficult time.

3 » Florida juniors cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Will Hill were named to the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list on Monday – two of only 35 of the nation’s best defensive backs to be selected. Conspicuous by his absence once again is senior safety Ahmad Black. There is a long way to go and plenty of players will be added and removed to this list as the season progresses.

Three more BITS on Reggie Nelson, Brad Beal and Joe Haden…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Murphy, Harvin, Jenkins, Hill, Nelson

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TEBOW BITS: Redskins, Patriots, Del Rio, mockery

» Washington Redskins take a closer look.
Last Saturday, a personnel group from the Redskins including head coach Mike Shanahan, general manager Bruce Allen and director of player personnel Scott Campbell met with former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow for a private workout. Though one should not expect the team to pick Tebow with its No. 4 overall selection, there are rumblings that he is the target should Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford already be selected or the team passes on drafting a quarterback in the first round.

» New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is impressed.
A team always known to be in the hunt for Tebow is the Patriots, and Belichick recently spoke about what Tebow has done and what he is capable of doing in the future. “Great career, great player,” Belichick said. “I think it’s obvious that within the last six weeks, that he’s worked on his mechanics and they’ve improved, which is a credit to him. He’s very coachable and he works very hard. I’m sure that whatever he feels he needs to do, he’ll work very hard at, whatever that is. Athletically, he tested very well at the combine, which you can see on the field.” New England is another team likely looking at Tebow with an early “value” pick, and it has enough of them that a trade-up is a possibility.

» Jacksonville Jaguars have him on their “wish list.”
“Our [general manager], Gene Smith, and I work hand-in-hand, discussing how we want to build this football team,” Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said. “With Tim or anyone else on our board, we’re going to do the work and where they fall, that’s what we’re going to do. He’s certainly on the wish list because he exemplifies some of the characteristics you’re looking for. He’s a terrific leader and his intangibles are off the charts. Those types of things put him in the ‘absolute would have’ category.”

» NBC analyst Tony Dungy thinks he gets drafted early.
“Somebody, I think, is going to take him in the first round,” Dungy said. “I’d be surprised if by the end of the first round somebody hasn’t taken him. And I think it will pay off for them.” On Tebow’s mechanics, Dungy noted that he “heard the same things about Steve Young. I heard the same things about Vince Young.”

» He’s still not sure what he’s doing for the 2010 NFL Draft.
“I’ve got to figure out what will be more fun for me and best for my family,” Tebow told Peter King of Sports Illustrated. “But I have to say I liked what Joe Thomas did on the day of the draft a couple of years ago — he went fishing with his dad.” He is expected to make a final decision sometime this week.

» A fellow draftee mocked him before the Wonderlic.
Pro Football Talk reports that Tebow, minutes before taking the Wonderlic exam at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, requested that his testing group bow their heads in prayer. In response, one player told him to “Shut the f—k up,” and others responded to that outburst by laughing. As PFT points out, this “illustrates the type of challenges that could be faced by the team that drafts Tebow.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll thinks he’s a first rounder. reports that Carroll, who plans to visit with Tebow for a private workout, thinks he is good enough to be a first round pick. However, do not expect the Seahawks to use No. 6 or No. 14 overall on the Heisman Trophy winner. “I can’t believe a quarterback of his stature won’t be (taken in the first round),” Carroll said, adding that someone of his stature is too good to ignore.

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FOUR BITS: Jaguars, Nelson, Christian, defense

1 » With so many people questioning Florida Gators senior quarterback Tim Tebow’s future in the NFL, one city and team that are seemingly fully behind him are Jacksonville, FL, and Tebow’s hometown Jaguars. In addition to revitalizing a franchise that is one of the least financially successful in the NFL, Tebow could add a much-needed character boost to a team that has been desperately trying to catch up with their division-rival Indianapolis Colts for years. The 17,000 fans who chose not to renew their season tickets this past offseason could easily come back if Tebow is drafted to his local team.

2 » Speaking of the Jaguars, former Gators free safety Reggie Nelson allowed not one but two touchdowns Thursday night to the Colts, immediately throwing him in head coach Jack Del Rio‘s doghouse. Nelson has regressed significantly over his last two seasons in Jacksonville, leading many to believe he will be benched this week. “[Nelson] didn’t play well,” Del Rio said. “You can’t stay in the lineup playing like that.”

3 » Gators four-star tight end commitment Gerald Christian, a star for Dwyer High School who is playing in the Class 4A Championship game on Saturday, has started since his freshman year and become an irreplaceable part of both the team’s offense and defense. “He was already a grown man as a sophomore, even as a freshman,” Dwyer defensive coordinator Bobby Sifrit said. “He’s a leader at practice, in school. He’s very smart and even keeled. You couldn’t have a better candidate to [call shots on defense].” Five-star Florida safety commit and Christian’s teammate, Matt Elam, agrees. “He’s a freak with all the stuff he knows,” Elam said.

4 » Gators basketball fans may notice that one of the reasons the team has improved so much in 2009 is a dedication o defense. “Nowhere is Florida’s newfound commitment to defense than from behind the 3-point line,” writes Michael DiRocco of The Florida Times Union. In some ways, the Gators are playing better on defense than even the 2006 and 2007 National Championship teams did at this point through their seasons.

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