Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 3

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the third week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 3

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the second week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 2

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Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

With the 2012 NFL regular season just a few weeks away, a number of former Florida Gators football players participated in preseason action, many of whom had an impact on their team’s performance. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished during the first week of 2012 preseason action.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Not awarded for preseason games.

Check out how the Gators in the NFL played…after the break!
Continue Reading » Florida Gators in the NFL: Preseason Week 1

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FOUR BITS: Lochte, Starks, Pouncey, Tebow

1 » Former Florida Gators swimmer and current United States Olympian Ryan Lochte filmed a television commercial for AT&T at Broward Pool on the campus at the University of Florida in June. That commercial has since been completed and was released online Monday. Though the spot was filmed at Florida, no mentions of the Gators or school are made and it is impossible to tell where it was shot due to the fact that most of the commercial consists of animated additions. Check it out:

2 » A free agent coming off yet another devastating end-of-season injury, tackle Max Starks was unsure as to whether or not he would be re-signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers – the only NFL team he has ever played for – this year. Starks, who was unsigned heading into the 2011 season due to weight issues and a neck injury but was picked up by Pittsburgh mid-season as an injury replacement, wound up starting every game he played in. He went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Steelers’ first and only playoff game and has spent the entire offseason undergoing rehabilitation, wondering if he would be signed again to team up with draft-mate and close friend quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Starks got his wish Tuesday when he announced via Twitter that that he has re-signed with Pittsburgh. (He tweeted a picture of the top of his new contract.) The Steelers now have four Gators on their roster including center Maurkice Pouncey, left tackle Marcus Gilbert and rookie running back Chris Rainey.

3 » Reflecting on his first season as a professional football player, Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey told his team’s website that he is ready to take what he learned and infuse it into an even better sophomore campaign. “It went by fast and I still can’t believe how fast it went by,” Pouncey said. “Going through one year in the NFL it just already feels like I learned so much and I just can’t wait to go out there and see how I do this year. I know it’s going to be a huge improvement from last year.” Concluding the season as a Pro Bowl alternate, he did not make his way to Hawaii for the game but certainly earned the respect of his veteran teammates. “He’s a straight athlete, a center at 6-foot-5 that can move,” said nine-year veteran linebacker Karlos Dansby. “He makes me better, period. I try to make him better as much as I possibly can and he tries to do the same. We always compete every chance we get and it’s a great give and take with a guy like that that’s so talented. He’s almost like a tight end at center.” Pouncey also said he is trying to step up as a “vocal leader” in the locker room for the Dolphins.

4 » The New York Jets are set to open training camp at SUNY-Cortland in late July and as many would expect quarterback Tim Tebow is going to be the main attraction. What Cortland, NY did not expect, however, was how much interest there would be on a national level from Christian groups hoping to take something of a pilgrimage to watch him scrimmage. “A couple months ago, I got a call from a church group, then another and I thought it was interesting, not groups we normally get calls from,” Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau spokesman Jim Dempsey told The New York Times. “Right now, we have no way of knowing how many more groups will come because of Tim Tebow. But we expect a lot.”

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FOUR BITS: Rainey, Butler, Tebow, Hernandez

1 » Now a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, running back Chris Rainey expressed on Tuesday how smooth the transition has been already to the NFL – and it is not because he has two former Florida Gators teammates and friends on the squad in center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Marcus Gilbert. “Well, this isn’t a new offense,” Rainey told WPXI in Pittsburgh, PA. “I’ve been in this offense at Florida because Charlie Weis and Coach [Todd] Haley coached together. It’s the same offense so it’s easy to me. It’s definitely an advantage. I can just go in here, see what it is and be like: I know this. I don’t even have to study. I’m right there. I’m ahead of everybody.” He is similarly not concerned about the speed of the NFL because of his five years in the Southeastern Conference. “I don’t think there’s a transition because I came from the SEC, so it’s basically the same thing the work wise,” Rainey told the station. “The hard work and all that kind of stuff [is the same]. Offense and everything [is the same], so I’m just out there doing my job.”

2 » Florida announced Wednesday that head women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler had her contract extended through the 2016-17 season after five years at the helm of the Gators. “I like the direction our program is headed,” athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a school release. “We know Amanda will be our coach for a long time. We’re excited about the future of the Gator women’s basketball program.” Butler is 98-67 in her five years at Florida, where she played as a guard from 1990-94 and served as an assistant coach from 1994-97.

3 » Panini America announced on May 31 that, as part of the company’s 2012 Prestige Football series, they will be including a 15-card insert devoted to now-New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow. The cards will be released on June 20 and numbered to a maximum of 1,500; there will also be 15 special versions of the 15th card (featuring him in a Jets uniform) that are autographed by Tebow. Below are small previews put together by OGGOA of the fronts of the 15 cards (each back includes a paragraph on Tebow):

4 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was scheduled to attend one of his teammates’ and fellow Connecticuter’s youth football clinic on Sunday but was delayed and showed up late for the event. When he did arrive, however, Hernandez was peppered with questions by the kids in attendance (the first of which was about the Gators); he also signed “roughly 100 autographs and [took] nearly as many pictures,” according to the New Britain Herald, before ending his appearance. In unrelated team news, recently signed wide receiver Jabar Gaffney may not wind up on New England’s final roster if he cannot beat out fellow veterans Deion Branch and Donte’ Stallworth. The three are all competing likely for a pair of roster spots, which is strange for each of the players consider all three joined the league together when selected in the 2002 NFL Draft by different teams.

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SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

1 » The Florida Gators’ top 2013 baseball commitment, right-handed pitcher Lance McCullers, is unlikely to ever step on the field at McKethan Stadium as he is projected to be a top selection in the 2012 MLB Draft on Monday. Though he is not yet officially a member of the orange and blue, the slim chance that McCullers spurns pro baseball and decides to spend three years playing in the college ranks should give Florida fans something extra to watch for Monday evening. McCullers was named the 2012 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year on Thursday after posting a perfect 13-0 record with a 0.18 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 77.1 innings during his senior season (he also batted .280 with two homers, 21 RBIs and 10 stolen bases as a shortstop). He is widely considered to be the best high school baseball player in the country and has received tons of positive press but could very well not wind up going in the first round due to new collective bargaining rules that limit the amount of bonus money teams can pay out to their top picks. Teams may feel that McCullers, represented by agent Scott Boras, would require a certain high-dollar figure in order to sign on the dotted line and not be a wasted pick (he could always choose to go to college instead). This could have him fall out of the first round and perhaps steer him more toward the Gators. “It’s frustrating, the whole draft thing is frustrating,” McCullers told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve done nothing than get better since I’ve been ranked No. 1 forever, and no one in the country had a better year than me on the hill. If Major League Baseball wants to undervalue me, then I’ll show them what I’m really about three years from now.”

Other Florida commitments that could be picked high in the draft and spurn the Gators for minor league contracts include outfielder Lewis Brinson, infielder Avery Romero, OF Max White and OF Jesse Winker.

2 » Former Florida offensive tackle Max Starks is a free agent hoping to sign with an NFL team while coming off a major injury for the second-straight season. Starks hurt his neck two years ago while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers and was unsigned at the start of 2011. As Pittsburgh’s depth along the offensive line took severe blows early in the season, Starks got a call, immediately returned as a starter and played out the rest of the year until tearing his ACL in the team’s season finale against Denver in the playoffs. Now trying to make another go of it while recovering from an injury, Starks will likely find a destination at some point though FOX Sports’ Len Pasquarelli reports that it will not be with the Steelers. “A few teams have stayed in contact with veteran offensive tackle Max Starks – who basically rescued the Pittsburgh line last season… – to keep tabs on his rehabilitation. Starks could be a July signing, or a safety net for a club that either suffers an injury or lacks depth at tackle. But he isn’t likely to return to the Steelers again.” Instead Pittsburgh will move second-year tackle Marcus Gilbert to the left side and hope that 2012 second-round pick Mike Adams will be ready to start for the team. Then again, the Steelers also thought that they would not need Starks in 2011 until they desperately needed his services. He has not played for any other team but Pittsburgh, knows the offense and has a great relationship with the rest of the line as well as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Read four more BITS of Florida Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: McCullers, Starks, Davis, Hurt, Pouncey

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RB Rainey inks four-year pact with Pittsburgh

Running back Chris Rainey signed a four-year, $2.282 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, making him the first former Florida Gators player picked in the 2012 NFL Draft to sign with the team that selected him.

The No. 159 overall pick in the fifth round of the draft, Rainey was chosen later than his talent might have demanded due to concerns about his size (5’8” 180 lbs.) and durability despite proving over his five-year college career that he can be a major playmakers when given the opportunity.

Pittsburgh believes they got a steal with Rainey, who posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.93 seconds), 60-yard shuttle (11.06 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.50 seconds) times at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. He also finished with the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash at 4.45 seconds.

Rainey will likely be a kick returner, special teams performer and offensive specialist (though his official role remains to be determined) for the Steelers, where he joins former Gators teammates center Maurkice Pouncey and left tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Pittsburgh has selected a Florida player in three-straight and four of the last nine NFL Drafts and could have four former Gators on their team in 2012 should they re-sign injured tackle Max Starks closer to the season.

Rainey received a $181,000 signing bonus as part of his contract along with base salaries of $390,000 (2012), $480,000 (2013), $570,000 (2014) and $660,000 (2015).

Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Pittsburgh picks RB Chris Rainey with No. 159 overall pick in fifth round of 2012 NFL Draft

Round 5 – No. 159
Chris Rainey, RB
Pittsburgh Steelers


Height: 5’8″ – Weight: 180 lbs.
Age: 24 – Class: Senior

Arguably the Florida Gators’ most valuable offensive starter in 2011 and one of the most naturally explosive players in team history, running back Chris Rainey was selected Friday afternoon by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 24th pick in the fifth round (No. 159 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Chosen later in the process due to concerns about his size (5’8” 180 lbs.) and durability, Rainey has proven over his five-year college career that he can be a major playmaker when used correctly and provided with an opportunity.

He posted the fastest 20-yard shuttle (3.93 seconds), 60-yard shuttle (11.06) and three-cone drill (6.50) times out of the entire field at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine and also finished with the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash at 4.45 seconds.

“Chris Rainey is an exciting player,” general manager Kevin Colbert said after making the selection. “He is a small guy but when you watch him run against SEC competition, he was really impressive. He doesn’t run people over but week-in and week-out the kid showed up in probably one of the toughest conferences in the country as a running back. In addition to that, he can do punt returns and kick returns.”

“Chris is a guy that we’re real excited to bring into the mix,” offensive coordinator Todd Haley added. “I think he is a very versatile player that is obviously fast and explosive. He can catch the ball, he can run with it and he can return it. That’s a commodity and we’re really excited to bring him aboard and work with him and put him into the mix.”

Rainey is the first Florida running back to be drafted since DeShawn Wynn was picked with the No. 228 overall selection in the seventh round by Green Bay in 2007. He is the third Gators player to be selected by Pittsburgh in as many years following in the footsteps of center Maurkice Pouncey (2010) and tackle Marcus Gilbert (2011).

He will now join his two former teammates on the Steelers and is the 24th Florida player selected all-time by the franchise (most of any team in the league.

The Gators have had multiple players picked in the draft 32 years in a row.

ADDITIONAL DRAFT CONTENT
» Rainey Conference Call (audio)
» Haley Press Conference on Rainey (video)
» Colbert on if there were any character concerns with Rainey: “Chris Rainey, everybody knows about the texting situation and we were well aware of it as well. We had some unique background on this kid because of his relationship with the Pouncey family. Knowing Maurkice’s mother and father, for them to take a kid in and provide him a home in high school said a lot to us. Those people are great folks they provided a great home for their own children. For them to endorse this kid by letting him live with them for part of his high school career while he went to Lakeland High School as the Pouncey brothers did. It said something to us. Of course Maurkice spoke highly of him as well, but he is a teammate and a friend, so we took that with a grain-of-salt even though we trust his opinion. When his family reached out to provide this kid with an opportunity and he takes that opportunity to go on and graduate, that says something to us.”

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