Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

When senior forward Chandler Parsons joined the Florida Gators in 2007, he became a part of a program that was expected to maintain prominence following back-to-back National Championships. Instead, he was the sixth man for a team that was in the midst of rebuilding itself after losing its six best players to the NBA Draft and graduation.

Like most freshmen, he entered college cocky and sure of himself, confident that he could dominate on the court the same way he did against his less talented high school competition. Coming to the realization that he was a small fish in a big pond – rather than the other way around – was something that took two years for Parsons to understand.

“I came in here with the wrong mindset, thinking I was going to be the man and I could just come out here and do what I did in high school against college guys,” Parsons said Tuesday. “That was proven wrong and, after the first two years, I really had a heart-to-heart with coach [Billy] Donovan. He really pushed me, and I realized that I’m going to have to buy into this system for me to be successful here and for us to win. That’s what’s most important.”

Donovan saw his struggles coming from a mile away. The team’s leading scorer off the bench as a freshman, Parsons expected his talent to carry him through his sophomore year and the rest of his college career.

“He was never in the right place mentally,” Donovan said of Parsons’ mindset after his first two years. “I saw it coming his freshman year and tried to talk to him about it. He was never in the right place mentally going into his sophomore year. He just wasn’t prepared to really deal with it. He dealt with it after his sophomore year and then I think he really started to become better.”

With a new mindset to go along with his physical gifts and abilities, Parsons has become one of Donovan’s favorite players, someone who listened to his instructions and proved that he could do exactly what his coach wanted.

“He has grown as a person, as a player, as much as any player I’ve ever coached,” Donovan said. “From where he was at to where he is now, a lot of it for Chandler was this image and this unrealistic perception of who he thought he was. The crossroads came for him where, after his freshman year, he really thought it was going to be pretty easy to play 18 minutes, ‘I’ve got a year under my belt. I’ve got this all figured out. I’m going to do this. I’m going to do that.’ And all of a sudden he got really, really humbled. He didn’t have a great sophomore year, he was really up-and-down. He was not a guy that we could really, really rely on.
Continue Reading » Growth, maturity make Parsons a Donovan favorite

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Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

Seven former letterwinners, including Gator Greats Mike Peterson (football) and Bob Emrick (men’s basketball) will be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame 2011 class. The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced the class on Wednesday, which will receive their honors at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 8, 2011, in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

According to UF, “inductees are divided into three different categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners.” The remainder of the induction class includes Gator Greats Dawn Buth (women’s tennis), Judd Davis (football), Michelle Freeman (women’s track & field), Mimosa McNerney (women’s swimming>, Distinguished Letterwinner Keith Tribble (football), and Honorary Letterwinner Dr. Richard Shaara (team physician).

More about each inductee and their career accomplishments after the jump.
Continue Reading » Peterson, Emrick highlight 2011 Hall of Fame class

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TWO BITS: Volleyball splits, soccer wins in OT

1 » Hosting the Nike Volleyball Big Four Classic at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL, over the weekend, No. 4 Florida Gators volleyball squared off against two of the best teams in the country – the No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions and No. 5 Texas Longhorns. The Gators (6-1) were able to split their two games, falling 3-1 (20-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-23) to the Nittany Lions (7-0) but winning 3-2 (25-11, 27-25, 16-25, 20-25, 16-14) against the Longhorns.

In the two matches, junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy posted a total of 27 kills, 37 assists and 20 digs, earning her a spot on the All-Tournament Team. Joining her on the team was senior outside hitter Callie Rivers, who posted 16 kills and 16 digs combined in the two matches. The schedule does not get any easier for Florida, which will take on No. 16 Kentucky to begin Southeastern Conference play on Friday.

2 » Just behind volleyball rankings-wise is No. 6 Gators soccer (6-0), which utilized an overtime victory to top the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles (4-2) 2-1 on Friday at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Tallahassee, FL. Well into the second half, Florida sophomore midfielder/forward Erika Tymrak gave the Gators an early lead with a deflected goal at 62’. Things were looking bleak for FSU until Janie Cayman knocked one through at 89’ just before regulation time expired. However, UF redshirt sophomore MF McKenzie Barney obviously had somewhere important to be, because it only took her 15 seconds into the overtime period to turn a serve from senior defender Nicky Kit into a golden goal for the Gators.

Extra BIT » President Barack Obama may be doing a Gator Chomp on Monday as Florida’s 2009-10 NCAA National Championship-winning men’s track and field and women’s swimming and diving teams will be recognized for their accomplishments at the White House. The Gators will be joined by 31 other NCAA title teams who will have the opportunity to honored by the President on the White House lawn.

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Wuerffel’s Words: “Don’t be too alarmed…”

For the entire month of September, former Florida Gators national championship- and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts about how the team performed the previous Saturday exclusively here on OGGOA at the beginning of each week.

The 1996 winner of eight football and academic awards, Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his college career. Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, he is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

As I watched the Gators game Saturday, I couldn’t help but remember the countless times in my career I heard a coach harp on us about “the fundamentals” of football. Usually, though, that would be an admonishment about blocking and tackling – the two most basic fundamentals of tackle football.

For the Gators this week, I guess we were all reminded there is one more basic level that comes even before that: the snap – the fundamental exchange between the center and the QB. Without that, blocking doesn’t much matter.

But don’t be too alarmed Gators fans. The first game is often a little sloppy. This problem will be remedied quickly, and we’ll get the chance to see how our new group of athletes can truly play in the coming weeks.

My worst game my senior year was the first one but fortunately for me, no one remembers that one.

As for me, I’m still optimistic about this group of guys and the season ahead. The defense should have a very solid year, and I’m excited to see Johnny Brantley develop as our QB. I think he’s got all the tools to have a great season.

And in case you missed it…Jeff Demps is FAST!

Lots of excitement to come!

Go Gators,

By joining together people from all walks of life who are interested in redeeming the inner-city, Desire Street Ministries believes that they are bringing together leaders who actually move into the neighborhood, indigenous leaders who already live there, and neighbors who “move in” spiritually through prayer, encouragement and financial support. Please take a moment to visit Desire Street Ministries online or in person and find out how you can help support and/or donate.

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Danny Wuerffel to guest blog for ONLY GATORS

With the Florida Gators 2010-11 football season set to begin on Sept. 4, ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is making a concerted effort to provide our readers with additional perspective from someone who has plenty of experience inside the huddle at The Swamp. On Tuesday, former national champion and multiple award-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel agreed to join OGGOA as a guest blogger for the entire month of September.

There are four games scheduled for Florida next month – Sept. 4 vs. Miami (OH), Sept. 11 vs. South Florida, Sept. 18 at Tennessee and Sept. 25 vs. Kentucky – and Wuerffel will be contributing his post-game thoughts and keeping readers abreast about how he thinks the team performed each Monday following the Gators game.

The 1996 winner of the Heisman Trophy, Johnny Unitas Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, NCAA QB of the Year Award, Draddy Trophy and Davey O’Brien Award (also 1995), Wuerffel has a unique perspective as a four-year player at Florida who passed for 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns in his Florida career.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

Keep a look out for his contributions exclusively here on OGGOA as the season begins!

OGGOA RELATED: Exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffel

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QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

When most college football fans think about the Florida Gators 1996 season, two names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Winner of seven individual awards in 1996 including the Heisman Trophy (and another Davey O’Brien Award in 1995), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first National Championship in his final effort after a four-year career in which he threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

OGGOA spoke to Wuerffel on Tuesday and, even though our interview was feared lost by a technical difficulty, it was recovered at the end of the day. How lucky are we?

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of Fort Walton Beach, was attending the University of Florida an easy choice for you – something you always knew you wanted to do?
DANNY WUERFFEL: “Actually, we were living close to Florida State and my sister was attending Florida State. By default, I was more of a Seminole fan in high school. I took three visits – one to Alabama, one to Florida State and one to Florida. At the end of the day, the two things that drew me to Florida were, firstly, the quality of the education with so many different directions – I wasn’t centered or decided on a major and Florida just had so many highly respected colleges and majors to choose from – I was really impressed with the school, and then secondly, the opportunity to play for coach [Steve] Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

AS: When deciding on Florida, did you know your high school coach wanted to eventually go back to the Gators, or did that happen afterward?
DW: “Coach [Jimmy Ray Stephens] – he played at Florida and had coached at Florida and he was always hoping to get back there – I think that was one of his goals. It was a year or so after I got signed, a year or so after that, coach Spurrier gave him the opportunity to come.”

AS: You played four years at Florida – which is not something a lot of quarterbacks really get the chance to do – but obviously broke out in your final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. Was there a particular switch that turned on for you, was it a measure of the talent around you – what was the difference?
DW: “Practically what happened – both my freshman and sophomore year I was splitting time with Terry Dean – so in terms of snaps and reps, [I] didn’t get as much. For both the 1995 and 1996 team[s], there were some really, really dynamic players and folks that came along and we had two really good teams those two years. And it just happened those were the two years I was in the driver’s seat. When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right coaches and the right players, a lot of cool things can happen, and those were definitely some good years.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffell…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

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F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

Former Florida Gators forward/center Chris Richard is a busy man. Entering his fourth season of playing professional basketball, Richard just returned from summer league action and was in his hometown of Lakeland, FL, when OGGOA caught up with him for an exclusive interview covering his college career, professional future and charitable efforts.

Though he is headed back to Chicago soon to workout and attempt to earn a contract, Richard has been concentrating on getting his foundation, The Rich Kids Project, off the ground.

Designed to help and provide opportunities for underprivileged and at-risk youth in the Polk County area, the organization aims at assisting children financially while, at the same time, ensuring that they are building a foundation for their future. “I want to teach substance and individuality through education, arts and just basic knowledge,” Richard told us. And even though the charity is based in Lakeland, he hopes it can grow big over time – with your help. More information on Richard’s charity will be available in the future.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of high school as Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida, you chose to sign with the Gators. What other schools were you considering and why did you end up picking Florida?
CHRIS RICHARD: “At the time I came out of high school, I could have went to just about any school in the country. I got recruited by everybody from North Carolina to Maryland to Indiana … all of the Florida schools. I only wanted to go to Florida. Growing up, once I got into basketball and once I got into sports, for whatever reason, Florida just stood out to me. I was a big Florida basketball fan. I grew up kind of liking Florida State and Miami football-wise. I [also] have family that actually lives in Alachua, outside of Gainesville, so going up there every summer – it kind of grew on me. I chose [Florida] over Florida State and Alabama.”

AS: You did get some playing time early on in your Gators career, but last two years is when your role increased. Losing its three top veterans, the team was significantly underrated going into the 2005-06 season. At what point did you guys realize that you had something special going on?
CR: “You know what, honestly, I know it sounds cliché and everybody says it, but once we got together that summer … Everybody went home for summer break and we came back to start working out for the season, and once we got back and started playing with each other, that was our first time playing together without David [Lee], Matt [Walsh] and Peep [Anthony Roberson]. So we never really saw what each person was capable of doing because everybody’s role was a little bit different that previous year. Just coming in and playing pick up, it was just a lot different. And we saw that on any given night that it can be anybody’s night. So we kind of took that and kind of embraced that and thought it was an advantage for us because we knew that we didn’t have any selfishness on the team. So nobody minded playing backseat … everybody just helped each other and kept it going.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Chris Richard…after the break!
Continue Reading » F/C Chris Richard: “All I can do is give my best.”

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Was Smith’s omission purposeful or an accident?

When running back Emmitt Smith was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, Florida Gators fans across the country tuned in to cheer on only the second player in school history to receive such an honor. Many were disappointed after the speech concluded and Smith failed to utter a single word of appreciation for the University of Florida, his college coaches, teammates or even the fans.

Plenty has already been written about the situation here from an editorial standpoint, but SPORTSbyBROOKS dived further into the issue Sunday and has concluded that “Smith purposely snubbed Florida and the [2007] Ring of Honor ceremony for one reason. His relationship with Steve Spurrier.”

Spurrier was hired as head coach of the Gators following Smith’s junior year in Gainesville in December, 1989. It was widely reported at the time that Spurrier made only a token attempt to ask Smith to complete his final season of eligibility with the team.

Smith has never forgiven Spurrier for that lack of interest.

From what I’ve been told, that’s also what led to Smith not show for the 2007 UF Ring of Honor ceremony, as Spurrier was also an inductee.

This has long been known as a cause of Smith’s rocky relationship with Florida; however, SPORTSbyBROOKS cites “multiple sources […] including Florida athletic dept. officials” claiming that this is the exact reasoning for Smith’s purposeful omission.

Countering that argument, however, is former Gator Brady Ackerman, who has been told that Smith not mentioning UF was just an accident. “I just talked to one of my ex-teammates who is with Emmitt. He got off his script and just plain out forgot to mention Florida,” Ackerman wrote via Twitter. “I can guarantee you Emmitt feels bad about it. He will address it tonight in his TV interview.”

Photo Credit: University of Florida

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