Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

One of the most accomplished signal callers in Florida Gators history, quarterback Chris Leak led the charge in Gainesville, FL from 2003-06, a career that spanned two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and plenty of ups and downs for the team.

A four-year student-athlete, Leak started nine games as a true freshman in 2003 (racking up a 6-3 record) and made 47-straight starts to end his career with a 35-12 record as a starter, playing in all 51 games in which he was eligible. He compiled 11,213 yards, 88 touchdowns (adding 13 additional scores on the ground) and 42 interceptions while completing 61.4 percent of his passes,

With the 2006 Southeastern Conference Championship and 2007 BCS National Championship titles under his belt, Leak was also named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2003, SEC Player of the Week (four times), National Quarterback of the Year in 2006, and Most Valuable Player of the 2007 BCS Championship, all while being a four-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

He bested Danny Wuerffel, Shane Matthews and Rex Grossman to own school records for career pass attempts (1,458), completions (895) and yardage (11,213); boasts the third-best career completion percentage in school history (behind Tim Tebow and Wayne Peace); has the second-most passing touchdowns at Florida (88, tied with Tebow); and holds the Gators’ record for consecutive completions (17 vs. Wyoming in 2005).

Leak has also seen the field for the second-most plays at UF (1,636) and totaled the second-most combined yardage (11,350), falling only behind Tebow in both categories.

After bouncing around the NFL and spending most of four seasons playing in the CFL, where Leak won a pair of Grey Cups with Montreal, he spent last season playing mostly for Orlando of the AFL and expects to return to the team next year. He is also currently working as a broadcaster with SiriusXM College Sports Nation and CBS Sports Network.

Leak sat down with OGGOA for 45 minutes last month for a wide-ranging two-part interview that encompasses his recruitment, career with the Gators, thoughts on his coaches, professional career and aspirations for Florida going forward.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: So let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I know a lot of people always assumed you would wind up at Tennessee because of your brother. Was that truly the case for a while? And as the process broke down, what made you wind up choosing Florida in the long run?
CHRIS LEAK: “I started off at an early age being offered in eighth grade by Jim Caldwell at Wake Forest; he was the head coach at the time. So I got started pretty early. I saw my brother, who back in 1998 was the No. 1 run-pass quarterback in the country…I got to see him go through the heavy recruiting process as well. Recruiting started off for me at a very early age. My parents did a great job of managing it for me, my meetings with coaches, school visits – unofficial and official visits. Tennessee was the leader because my brother was there after he transferred from Wake Forest. I wanted to have his mentorship during my time in school. That was kind of the plan.

“I felt like, with Tennessee, after what happened with my brother in the Georgia game, I just felt like my heart wasn’t in it. [His brother, C.J. Leak, was promised a chance to start when he transferred to UT. When Casey Clausen got injured in the game, he was given two series before being pulled.] It was a trust factor and I wanted to commit somewhere where I felt like I could trust the coaches to take care of my future, take care of me while I’m there as I’m away from home. It would have to help me obviously get a good education and do everything I want to accomplish at the collegiate level.

“I was going to go through the recruiting process anyway, the full recruiting process. Though Tennessee was the leader, Florida was always a close second. My parents told me they wanted me to go through the entire recruiting process to make sure that I am sure and that Tennessee was the right fit for me. Obviously as I went through the recruiting process and went on my official visits, I just felt like Florida felt more like a home away from home for me. I just felt like, when I visited the campus when Florida played Auburn back in 2002, a game which they won in overtime, it just kind of hit home. I really felt the love from the fans and the coaches. Ron Zook, I really felt like I could trust him with my future as well as the rest of the coaching staff moving forward.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Chris Leak…after the break!
Continue Reading » Gators QB Chris Leak: “I went out to be myself.”

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FOUR BITS: Bell, Sturgis, Harvin, Fedora

1 » Minutes after the Kansas Jayhawks announced that they had hired Florida Gators offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as their next head coach, fans and media members began pointing to Jacksonville Dolphins head coach Kerwin Bell as a frontrunner to replace Weis at Florida. Bell spoke with The Gainesville Sun Thursday evening about the possibility. “Naturally, the University of Florida is my alma mater,” he told the paper. “It’s something I’ve always said I’d like to do. I love being a head coach. It would have to be the right place [for me to leave Jacksonville], and Florida is the right place. Will Muschamp has a personality that seems like a guy who would be great to work with. I definitely would be interested in listening. It would be great to come back.”

2 » Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was a finalist but did not win the Lou Groza Award on Thursday. However, he was named a 2011 Walter Camp All-American and was placed on the second team, following in the footsteps of former Florida punter Chas Henry who was selected for the first team one year ago.

3 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin had one of the best games of his NFL career last Sunday, posting a career-high 156 yards with two touchdowns against the Denver Broncos. Harvin almost didn’t play in the game, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, after suffering “migraine-like symptoms” just one day earlier. “The symptoms were similar to Harvin’s past struggles with migraines, according to the unnamed person, including bloodshot eyes and vomiting,” the paper reported. Harvin had been without migraines all year after believing doctors found a way of preventing them in the offseason. If he did indeed suffer a migraine, Harvin may go through even more tests this offseason to try and find another solution.

4 » Former Florida offensive coordinator Larry Fedora (2002-04) was introduced as the new head football coach of the North Carolina Tar Heels on Friday. After leaving the Gators alongside then-head coach Ron Zook, Fedora worked as offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2005-07 before taking the top job at Southern Mississippi in 2008. During his introductory press conference with UNC, Fedora singled out Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley and thanked him for all of his help getting to this point in his career. Foley told UF senior writer Scott Carter shortly after how much he appreciated Fedora’s ability and work ethic. “I’ve always felt very highly about Larry Fedora and have followed his career closely. He did an outstanding job for us as an assistant at Florida and has had success at every stop since,” Foley said. “He is a good football coach, but even a better person and family man and I fully expect his success to continue.”

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TWO BITS: women’s basketball, Frazier, Strong

1 » Participating in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center-hosted Gator Holiday Classic, Florida Gators women’s basketball (10-3) defeated the Alabama State Hornets (2-7) and Robert Morris Colonials (4-6) in consecutive days to capture the tournament title. Florida’s freshman guard Brittany Shine was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Performer after accounting for 47 points and 10 assists in a two-game span. Also honored after the event was freshman G Jattera Bonds, who scored 16 points and notched 12 assists to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team. The Gators dominated the Hornets 95-38 on Monday and took it to the Colonials 70-50 on Tuesday.

3 » With Florida basketball struggling already this season, there is plenty of anticipation from fans to see 2011 five-star shooting guard Brad Beal (St. Louis, MO) burst on the scene next season. While Beal is expected to be the next great player to step foot in the O’Connell Center, 2012 four-star SG Michael Frazier (Tampa, FL) – also a Gators commitment – is making a name for himself during his junior season. Frazier posted 45 points in the Bright House Networks Tournament Championship game on Tuesday, leading his team to a 71-69 victory while earning MVP honors. He scored 110 total points in three games in the tournament including 40 in the semifinal game.

Extra BIT » Former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, currently in his first season as head coach of the Louisville Cardinals, led his team to victory in the 2010 Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, FL. Strong’s Cardinals defeated the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and head coach Larry Fedora, a former offensive coordinator of the Gators. Louisville’s victory marked the team’s seventh bowl game win since it started playing football in 1912 and capped an inaugural season in which Strong posted a 7-6 record. The Cardinals finished 4-8 in 2009.

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Stoops denies he is close to signing with Florida

Head coach Bob Stoops may leave the Oklahoma Sooners for the Florida Gators He also may not. Either way, Stoops explained to Tulsa World on Saturday that reports stating he is close to signing with Florida are false.

“Not true, whatsoever,” Stoops told the paper‘s Dave Sittler via text message. “I’m out recruiting [for Oklahoma] as we text.”

A seven-time Big 12 champion who also captured a national title after serving as the Gators’ defensive coordinator under head coach Steve Spurrier, Stoops has been the object of Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley‘s affection for years.

Foley has tried to hire Stoops on two other occasions but was rebuffed both times.

Though Stoops is widely believed to be the University of Florida‘s number one choice, word out of Gainesville, FL, is that Boise State Broncos head coach Chris Petersen not far behind in Foley’s pecking order.

Petersen, who has led Boise State since 2006, has never won fewer than 10 games in a season, is 2-0 in BCS bowl games (0-2 in non-BCS bowls), and has won four Western Athletic Conference titles in five seasons. He is also a two-time Paul “Bear” Bryant Award winner as Coach of the Year (2006, 2009).

Other current head coaches rumored to be up for the Florida job – in no particular order – include Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, Connecticut’s Randy Edsall, Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Louisville’s Charlie Strong, Southern Mississippi’s Larry Fedora and Houston’s Kevin Sumlin. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, in line to succeed Mack Brown, is also believed to be an option.

Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino was thought to be a top candidate for UF, but he reportedly agreed to seven-year contract extension on Friday. Petrino was supposedly Foley’s number two choice when he hired current/former head coach Urban Meyer.

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