SIX BITS: NFL injuries, Tebow, Munroe, women

1 » New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, one of the team’s leading receivers this year with 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns through two games, sprained his MCL during Sunday afternoon’s game and will be out of action at least 1-2 weeks, according to the Boston Globe. Also injured on Sunday was Chicago Bears free safety Major Wright, who was hit hard in his contest and was removed from the field with what was considered a head injury. After further evaluation, Wright was diagnosed with a “stiff neck” and not a concussion, which means he does not have to miss his team’s next game. However, Wright may not start anyway as, according to the Chicago Tribune, the team is considering moving Brandon Meriweather into the starting role.

2 » Denver Broncos second-year player Tim Tebow has yet to see the field as a quarterback in 2011 after leading his team to a 1-2 record in three starts to conclude the 2010 season. However, Tebow got into his team’s game on Sunday as a wide receiver due to injuries to some of the other players. According to NBC Sports, Tebow asked the coaching staff if he could play receiver on the scout team rather than do nothing during practice. The coaches agreed and allowed him to fill the role and he wound up playing out wide on Sunday as a result. Head coach John Fox said Monday that the Broncos only consider Tebow a quarterback and have no plans to play him at receiver going forward.

3 » Former Florida Gators safety Dorian Munroe, who OGGOA recently profiled as we broke the story that he would be playing for the Toronto Varsity Blues of OUA Canadian college football, was interviewed in a profile piece on The Score out of Canada. Through three games with Toronto, Munroe has 13 tackles and an interception.

4 » In unrelated Tebow news, he told the Associated Press last week that, while he appreciated the support of fans who were raising money for billboards declaring that he should start for Denver, he hoped they were “going to do the right thing” with the money and donate it to charity. Fox, asked about the billboard, said, “I’ve seen a lot of billboards and I can’t remember one that really influenced me.”

5 » No. 9 Florida soccer (8-2) ended its non-conference slate over the weekend with a pair of decisive road victories. On Friday, the Gators defeated the Missouri Tigers (7-2) behind a pair of goals by freshman midfielder Annie Speese at 43’ and 86’. Sunday’s 7-2 blowout of the Kansas Jayhawks (6-3) was a total team effort with six different players scoring. Speese added her third goal of the weekend at 20’, but freshman forward Tahnai Annis opened and closed the contest with goals at 9’ and 89’. Florida will continue its four-game road trip with a pair of games against Georgia (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) as they open Southeastern Conference play. UF will then return to Gainesville, FL for a five-game homestand.

6 » No. 6/7 Gators volleyball (8-2, 1-0 SEC) began league play on Friday with a 3-0 shutout (25-20, 25-18, 26-24) of the Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-5, 0-1 SEC) on the road in Starkville, MS. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy, who was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week for her efforts, posted a triple-double with 10 kills, 19 assists and 11 digs in the match. Also excelling Friday was senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel, who led the team with 14 kills on the evening. After playing their last three matches on the road, Florida will return home for a two contests next weekend against Kentucky (Friday) and Tennessee (Sunday) before hitting the road the following weekend.

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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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Fred Taylor retires after 13-year NFL career

Putting an end to his illustrious 13-year NFL career, former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor signed a one-day contract (picture) with the Jacksonville Jaguars and officially retired from professional football on Friday.

“A lot of times people talk about the Jacksonville market and what the possibilities could have been if I had played at a different market, but the way I see it is, God only gives you what you can handle,” Taylor said. “Me being young not really having a sense of direction, I think if that had happened I probably wouldn’t be here today. So I’m extremely thankful to have been selected to play football here in front of the Jacksonville community for those 11 years. And I say that with all sincerity from the bottom of my heart.”

Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts (2,428), yards (11,271) and touchdowns (62), Taylor is also one of just 30 NFL players to have run for more than 10,000 yards in his career. His stat sheet will conclude reading a total of 11,695 rushing yards, 66 rushing touchdowns, 2,384 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.

“Fred Taylor is a remarkable person who has had a remarkable football career. He made the extraordinary look ordinary every Sunday in the NFL performing against the world’s best players.” – Jaguars GM Gene Smith

After graduating from Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, FL (he was born in Pahokee), Taylor decided to attend the University of Florida and wound up staying for four years. His college career got off to a fast start as he scored eight touchdowns on 873 rushing yards as a true freshman but fell off a bit his second year with just 281 yards on the ground and five scores.

Taylor rebounded in 1996, when Florida went on to win its first national championship, running for 629 yards and five touchdowns in just seven games. He was named a team captain in his final season of 1997 and led by example that year, sparking the team with 1,292 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Taylor was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-Southeastern Conference player for his accomplishments and significantly enhanced his profile for the upcoming draft.

He still holds the Gators’ single-season record for yards per carry (6.0 in 1997) and led the team in rushing in both 1994 and 1997. Taylor has the sixth most attempts in school history (537) and is fourth in both career (3,075) and single-season (1,292) rushing.

Selected with the No. 9 overall pick in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, he would wind up staying with the team for 11 years. He ran for 1,223 yards and 14 touchdowns as a rookie and eclipsed 1,000 yards seven times with the Jaguars. Taylor was often injured during his NFL career and only played more than 14 games in a season four times (2002, 2003, 2006, 2007). He rushed for a career-high 1,572 yards in 2002 but never scored more touchdowns than he did his rookie year.

“I remember Fred Taylor as a shy young man from the University of Florida who really grew into one of the great leaders who really helped this franchise grow into where it is today.” – Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver

However, his best year came in his 10th NFL season as Taylor led the Jaguars to the No. 5 seed in the 2007 playoffs. He started 15 games that year and ran for 1,202 yards (on a career-high 5.4 yards per carry) with five touchdowns. Taylor had five consecutive games in which he ran for 100 or more yards and earned honors as an All-Pro and Pro Bowl reserve for the first time in his career. He is also one of only three players in NFL history to average at least 4.5 yards per carry over eight seasons (Jim Brown, Barry Sanders).

“There are precious few players that leave you breathless, but you knew that Fred could take it the distance every time he touched the ball.” – “Voice of the Jaguars” Brian Sexton

Taylor was released by Jacksonville in 2009 and quickly signed with the New England Patriots, where he spent the final two years of his career. He only started once in 13 appearances with the team, totaling 424 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

A free agent in 2011, Taylor had all but decided to retire; however, he chose to keep his options open in case a team was interested in bringing him on after the lockout was over. He finally decided to hang up his cleats over the summer and made it official by signing a one-day contract on Friday with the team that originally drafted him.

“One of the good things about retiring from the NFL is it doesn’t end with a period. This is just a comma,” Taylor said. “There will be more of me to go around, and I can’t wait to get back in this community and do what’s right.”

A member of both the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame (2008 inductee) and University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame (inducted in 2010 as a “Gator Great”), Taylor will likely receive similar honors from Jacksonville in the near future. His son, Kelvin Taylor, is a high school junior who may wind up following in his father’s footsteps and playing for Florida two season from now.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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4 BITS: Taylor retires, volleyball, Baker, Brown

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Fred Taylor, a 13-year NFL veteran who spent the majority of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, will sign a one-day contract with the team on Friday and officially announce his retirement. Taylor – who has rushed for 11,695 yards and 66 touchdowns while catching 290 passes for 2,384 yards and eight touchdowns – was a Pro Bowler and All-Pro in 2007 who is only one of 30 players in league history to have rushed for more than 10,000 yards. He was a three-time Southeastern Conference champion (1994-96) and one-time national champion (1996) at Florida and was named as a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC member in 1997. A member of the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame, Taylor spent his first 10 years in the NFL with Jacksonville before playing his final two seasons with the New England Patriots. The No. 9 overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, he is Jacksonville’s all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards and touchdowns.

OGGOA will have more on Taylor’s retirement on Friday. Stay tuned.

2 » Looking to avenge a come-from-behind victory by the Gators in the Sweet 16 of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, No. 25 Florida State Seminoles volleyball strode into the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on a mission Tuesday evening. Fortunately for No. 9 Florida (3-0), the Gators were able to push back their opponents and sweep the Seminoles 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-22) in front of a school-record 1,901 students (total attendance: 4,631). Florida has won all nine sets in which they’ve played this season and continues to claw their way to victory each match. Senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy notched a triple-double in the contest with 12 kills, 10 digs and 17 assists. The trio of senior middle-back Cassandra Anderson (eight), senior outside hitter Stephanie Ferrell (seven) and senior OH Kristy Jaeckel (six) combined for 21 kills on the evening as the Gators improved to 28-2 against FSU under head coach Mary Wise.

3 » Former Gators wide receiver Dallas Baker is set to make his debut with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL on Sunday and is excited for his opportunity to get back on the field. Baker, who was signed by the Montreal Alouettes in April but traded to Saskatchewan in August, only played in three games with the former team and caught just three balls for 28 yards. He found himself on the bench with the Roughriders and now, after a teammate got injured, he will finally get back on the field. “I’ve always been a guy who’s been in a situation like this, so [waiting] really wasn’t tough at all,” Baker told The Regina Leader-Post. “It was all about being patient and that’s something that I was used to.” Baker also spoke to the paper about his uncle and fellow former Florida star Wes Chandler. “When I got drafted, he was like, ‘Hey, that’s the easy part,’” he recalled. “I thought it was the hard part. He told me the things to do to be a professional athlete. He told me to never get complacent. He also told me, ‘Watch and learn. If you see a vet do something, that doesn’t mean you can do it – especially if you know it’s wrong. [...] But if you see a vet do something like staying late watching film, pick up on that.’”

4 » Though he was released by the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, former Gators defensive end Alex Brown has already heard from at least three teams who are interested in his services this year. “I talked with my agent, and three teams have made contact,” Brown said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. “We’re just trying to figure out what’s best for my family and what’s a really good situation for me to go in. I would love to go play in a 4-3, so there are a lot of teams out there that still run a 4-3 that could use a defensive end that still has a little bit left. So hopefully I can find a good place that my family and I can feel comfortable with.” One possible destination? The team that drafted him – the Chicago Bears. “It would be crazy to do another Gator Chomp in Soldier Field. That would be nuts,” he said.

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Hernandez, Ochocinco joke about No. 85 swap

New England Patriots fans were undoubtedly excited when they learned wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had been traded to their team for nothing but a pair of late-round picks. The first thought in the mind of Florida Gators fans? “How much is he going to pay tight end Aaron Hernandez for No. 85?”

Though he wore No. 81 throughout college, Hernandez was forced to don No. 85 during his rookie season because his number was already taken by another veteran. With No. 81 becoming available once again due and No. 85 in need by another player, Hernandez had a tough decision to make.

As it turns out, he did not ask Ochocinco for a dime and instead extended his hand (and the jersey number) as a welcome gift for the six-time Pro Bowl receiver.

“We’re playing at a high level, so all of us have a decent amount of money. I definitely should have [asked for some], but I didn’t,” Hernandez said with a laugh, according to ESPNBoston.com. “It was just a welcome to the team. [...] I thought he may look better and play better in 85, because that’s his last name. So why not give it to him?”

Ochocinco joked that all he had to offer Hernandez anyway was the use of his Toyota Prius on the weekends and some McDonald’s coupons. “It was Mr. Hernandez’s way of greeting me here,” he said. “I just shook his hand and said, ‘Thank you.’”

Though some may be disappointed that Hernandez did not cash in when given the opportunity, Florida fans will be happy to see him wearing his new old number while tearing up the field in New England.

“I had a chance to get my college number back, and he obviously wanted 85,” Hernandez said. “It wasn’t a problem. So I thought he deserved it and should get it.”

Photo Credit: John Biever/Sports Illustrated

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Safety Rhaheim Ledbetter picks the Gators

A week before what is expected to be a recruiting surge for the Florida Gators as they host Friday Night Lights at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 22, the team received good news in the form of a verbal commitment from underrated three-star safety Rhaheim Ledbetter (Boiling Springs, NC), who announced his decision on Friday.

Ledbetter, who said earlier this month that the Gators were recruiting him the hardest, chose Florida over Alabama, Clemson, Miami and South Carolina.

“I just felt better about Florida’s staff and Florida in general as that’s where I have to live for three years,” he told InsidetheGators.com‘s Andrew Spivey.

Rivals has Ledbetter ranked as the No. 25 player at his position, while ESPNU has him listed as a four-star recruit and the No. 9 safety in the country.

He is teammates with five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard (Shelby, NC), and the duo at one time gave indications that they would like to play college football together.

Ledbetter, whose cousin is former Gators now New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes, said he will not be taking any more visits.

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Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell arrested

Former Florida Gators wide receiver Reche Caldwell was arrested early Thursday morning near Tampa, FL and charged with two misdemeanors including possession of marijuana (less than 20 grams) and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

A seven-year NFL veteran, Caldwell played most of his career with the San Diego Chargers (2002-05) before spending one season each with the New England Patriots (2006) and Washington Redskins (2007).

He was released after five hours on a $750 bond, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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TWO BITS: Demps featured, Hernandez gives

1 » Florida Gators senior running back and junior sprinter Jeff Demps was featured on the front page of NCAA.com and written about in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday for his amazing ability to be a two-sport athlete who thrives in both disciplines. Demps told NCAA writer Tim Turner that, upon begin injured against Tennessee, his focus was solely on his football career and getting back as soon as possible. “All I was thinking about was recovery and getting back for football,” Demps said. I wasn’t thinking about track. I give all the credit for the strength and conditioning coach for getting me back out there. I recovered better than I thought, and being hurt made me want to make the best of opportunities to compete. [Being in the SEC], I know each week I am going to compete against the best athletes in the country in each sport. Every week you have to go out there as if you are playing for the national championship. You never know who is going to have that 10 flat or run a 9.86.”

Demps discussed participating in the 2012 London Olympics with the Inquirer and whether or not that will have an impact on his future in the NFL. “I’m not really sure,” he said. “I’m not thinking about it that much. Sometimes it will go through my mind, but I have to stay away from thinking about it and focus on the present.” You can read the rest of both of these features, respectively, here and here.

2 » One year ago, former Florida tight end Aaron Hernandez saw his stock fall due to character concerns stemming from at least one positive marijuana test. After a stellar rookie season in which he caught 45 passes for 563 yards and six touchdowns for the New England Patriots, Hernandez has decided to give back by taking advantage as a unique platform he has being one of the few Latin players in the NFL.

According to the Boston Herald, Hernandez spent time on Friday “sharing his story and delivering his message to a group of third- and fifth-graders at Gardner Pilot Academy in Allston. Later in the evening, he’ll attend the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology’s annual gala to support the Dr. Cynthia Lucero Latino Mental Health Program, which benefits the local Latino community’s mental health resources.” He spoke about his decision to give back to the community. “I just feel like I can be really influential to young kids because I’ve been through a lot,” Hernandez told the Herald. “For me, I knew I always had someone I could look up to, and someone I could follow. When you have that role model in front of you, doing the right things, it can take you to where you want to be in life. You can get anywhere, as long as you have the drive, and you have someone to look up to. If you have no one to look up to, you have nowhere to go.” Having his father pass away due to complications from hernia surgery when he was only 16, Hernandez knows the importance of having role models to look up to.

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