With the 2011 regular season complete, six former Florida Gators participated in Divisional action during the second round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs on Saturday and Sunday.
A total of nine former Florida players were on the main rosters of four of the eight teams that participated in this round, but two were inactive and one was forced to sit out due to injury. OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what these Gators accomplished over the weekend.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots^: Four receptions for 55 yards, touchdown (targets: 6, long: 20); five carries for 61 yards (long: 43); solo tackle
ESPN announced early Thursday that the network has decided to spend another full hour of SportsCenter (11 a.m. – 12 p.m.) highlighting, discussing and debating one man – Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
The hour, which is expected to feature at least 10 separate segments on Tebow, will cover the NFL’s most debated player from a number of angles.
There will be a report with George Smith live from Denver; a highlight package from the Broncos’ loss to the New England Patriots in Week 15; a segment of people Tebowing across the nation; analysis by Mel Kiper, Jr.; a comparison between Tebowmania and other hysterias (Beatlemania, Fernandomania, Hulkamania); sound clips from Tebow this season; a look at the business end of Tebow; a flashback clip to the pep talk he gave the guys on the College Basketball GameDay set back in college; recent comments from Charles Barkley on Tebow; a “roundtable examining what makes Tebow so popular and polarizing” with Mike Greenberg, Herm Edwards, Hugh Douglas and Trevor Matich giving their opinions; and a ‘You Don’t Know Tim Tebow’ game show.
OGGOA will feature live coverage of TebowCenter for the entire one-hour period on Thursday via Twitter with a complete recap here on OnlyGators.com.
1 » OGGOA learned Thursday from a source close to the head coach that the Jacksonville Dolphins’ Kerwin Bell has not received any offer from the Florida Gators to either be the team’s quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator, despite reports to the contrary. Bell, who has maintained privately that he would not leave his post at Jacksonville solely for a position coach job, has however been contacted by at least one other institution on a preliminary basis. A former Florida quarterback, Bell has made quite the impression in the coaching profession after building the Trinity Catholic High School football program from the ground up and winning two Pioneer Football League titles in five years with the Dolphins. The Florida Times-Unionreported Thursday evening, citing “multiple sources familiar with Florida’s interest” in Bell, that he is “no longer under consideration” for a job with the Gators.
2 » Out for seven games (and eight weeks) with a sprained MCL, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes (notoriously media shy) met with reporters Thursday and spoke about how he is playing since returning to the field. “I never really got hurt like that [before], so it was kind of a burden,” he said. “But with my teammates pushing me every day, I just had to come out and do what I do and when my number’s called, I just want to come out and perform.”
3 » Having trained at D1 Sports Training prior to participating in his NFL workouts and being selected in the 2010 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is set to invest in the organization’s first location inside the state of Florida. According to the Tampa Bay Times, talks between D1 and Tebow are ongoing and things “are nearly wrapped up to sign him at or near the end of the Broncos’ season.” Tebow, who purchased a stake in a D1 location in Savannah, GA last year, will be joined by Chipper Jones, Chris Jericho and Derrick Brooks in this new venture, the Times reports. The Florida location of D1 will be in Citrus Park in what was once a Circuit City; the company has spent approximately $1.7 million renovating the facility with membership costing $150-250 per month.
4 » Former Florida women’s basketball coach Carol Ross has been selected as the next head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. Ross, who led the Gators from 1990-2002, will be reunited with former Florida great and 14-year veteran forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who will play her 11th season with the Sparks divided over two stints with the team. Ross was an assistant with the Atlanta Dream for the last three seasons and helped the team reach consecutive WNBA Finals (2010-11). “Carol is a proven winner with an incredible track record at both the collegiate and pro levels. She has groomed many women for great WNBA careers,” Los Angeles general manager Penny Toler said in the press release announcing the hire. “We’re confident Carol is the ideal coach to lead the Sparks to our next championship.”
1 » Despite missing the entire 2011 after rupturing his Achilles, linebacker Brandon Siler was re-signed by the Kansas City Chiefs over the weekend to a one-year deal with a total compensation of $750,000 that will keep him off of the market in 2012. Siler agreed to a one-year contract with Kansas City in the 2011 offseason, his agent David Canter told OGGOA, in order to prove that he was deserving of a multi-year deal with another team. He never had that opportunity, however, due to being injured before a single down of the regular season was ever played. Siler joined the Chiefs after spending four years with San Diego where he amassed 123 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. After playing solely as a reserve in 2007 and 2008, Siler started seven games in 2009 and five in 2010. He only played in 12 total games in 2010 due to injury.
2 » New England Patriots defensive tackle Gerard Warren loves football and so far the NFL has loved him back. Participating in his 11th season this year, Warren took a look back at much of his career this week with the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport. In his feature, Rapoport covers a story about Warren knowing C.J. Spiller when he was just a water boy at Florida, his giving back to the community, and how much love he has for his fellow players. Warren, who said he does not plan to retire “until they tear [the uniform] off me,” said, “The game is my life. This is my life. Sixty minutes, overtime, you can have hatred. Once the game is over with, you come back to being human beings again.”
Extra BIT » Former Gators striker Abby Wambach and former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte are featured in a new Gatorade commercial set to debut during the 2012 Rose Bowl. The duo are two of a number of athletes shown in the advertisement, which promotes a variety of the company’s products while introducing a new tagline: Win From Within. Lochte’s portion of the commercial, which features him in a Gators cap for one shot, was filmed at the pool at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey became the third Florida Gators player in as many seasons to be named to the primary NFL Pro Bowl roster.
He was selected as a starter for the AFC this year after being picked as the backup for Nick Mangold of the New York Jets last season.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin and Pouncey earned Pro Bowl nominations 2009 and 2010, respectively. Harvin started for the NFC as a kick return specialist, while Pouncey did not play due to being on a Super Bowl team.
Pouncey is the 20th former Florida player to be picked for the Pro Bowl; his nomination in 2010 made him the fifth to receive the honor in his rookie season (Cris Collinsworth, Jevon Kearse, Emmitt Smith, Harvin). Former Gators have made a total of 57 appearances in the game and have participated in 35 of 42 total Pro Bowls.
The Denver Post reports that former Gators now Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow is a second alternate for the AFC. Should two of New England’s Tom Brady, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger and San Diego’s Philip Rivers not participate in the game, Tebow would get the nod and take the trip to Honolulu, HI.
New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is the primary alternate behind New England teammate Rob Gronkowski and San Diego’s Antonio Gates.
1 » Though he has been garnered similar honors by other outlets, Florida Gators redshirt junior kicker Caleb Sturgis was awarded a spot on the 2011 Associated Press All-American Team on Wednesday. Sturgis was placed on the second team while Texas A&M K Randy Bullock earned the first-team nomination. He was similarly given a second-team nod on the 2011 Walter Camp All-American list and recently was a finalist (but did not win) the 2011 Lou Groza Award, as announced last Thursday. Named unanimously to the All-SEC first-team by coaches and AP voters, Sturgis accounted for 91 points this season, going 21-for-25 on field goals and 28-for-28 on extra points.
2 » Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow appears to be going head-to-head with a former teammate every week. After taking on Minnesota (with wide receiver Percy Harvin) two weeks ago and Chicago (with safety Major Wright) last week, Tebow will play the New England Patriots on Sunday, where he will square off with linebacker Brandon Spikes and tight end Aaron Hernandez. The latter told the Boston Herald’s Ian Rapoport on Thursday that he still supports and believe in his former teammate. “He keeps plays alive, and he’s winning,” Hernandez said. “[He was] a leader. I’m sure he still is. He brought a lot of energy to the game. When someone has energy, you take from it.” Tebow shared his admiration for Hernandez as well. “He makes any quarterback he’s with look at lot better,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal player, one of those guys when you need competitive excellence and you need someone to step up and make a big play, he’s always ready and willing. I’m just proud of him for what he’s done as an NFL player and what he did with me at Florida.”
3 » Two former Gators are on their way to Louisville, KY and could be one step closer to playing with former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, now head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. According to a number of reports, transfers tight end Gerald Christian and wide receiver Robert Clark will be visiting the school beginning Friday as they search for a spot to spend their final two years of eligibility. Each will have to redshirt the 2012 season and will be eligible to resume playing college football in 2013.
4 » Back in the United States, former Gators guard Lee Humphrey is now playing for the Rio Grande Vipers of the NBA Development League. The official minor league team of the NBA’s Houston Rockets (which drafted forward Chandler Parsons this year), the Vipers are nine games into the season and have Humphrey playing 29.1 minutes per game, second-most on the team. Though he’s had some big moments already this year, Humphrey is averaging just 11.8 points and 3.1 assists per game. He is shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from downtown.
1 » Though he is now at Ohio State, former Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer still obviously has an affinity for quarterback Tim Tebow. Speaking with The Gainesville Sun, Meyer explained how proud he was of what Tebow has been able to accomplish this year. “Isn’t it great?” he said. “He did it in high school, he did it in college and now he’s doing it in the NFL. What more do you want? The thing about Tim is he makes the people around him better. It’s the essence of football. It doesn’t matter what style of offense you run. It’s a team sport.” As to those non-believers? “They just don’t want to buy in,” Meyer said. “Even John Elway. It doesn’t matter if you brought him in if you’re Elway or the general manager. Who cares? Just enjoy it.”
2 » Crossing paths with Tebow during his time in Gainesville, FL, former Gators center Joakim Noah (now of the Chicago Bulls) also waxed poetic about the former Heisman Trophy winner. Just one day before Tebow faced the Chicago Bears, Noah was excited to show his Florida pride at practice. “Timothyyyy!” Noah said proudly, according to ESPNChicago.com. “We got to show Timothy a little love here. For all the haters out there, you know the guy is kicking ass. Making me very proud to be a Gator boy.” He added that, while he may not share the same belief system as Tebow, that does not make him any less of a supporter. “It’s a beautiful story,” he said. “He is who he is. There’s no lie about who he is. He’s comfortable. Me personally, I have completely different beliefs than him. But at the same time I respect the fact that he speaks his truth. He speaks his truth and he’s a warrior. He’s a winner. At the end of the day, his teammates respect that.” Noah went on to talk about the two being in a class together and how, being a “Gator boy” he “love[s] the Tebow talk.”
1 » Florida Gators redshirt freshman forward Cody Larson will not serve any jail time in South Dakota even though his 120-day suspended sentence was revoked earlier this week by Minnehaha County Judge John Schlimgen due to Larson’s arrest in Florida on April 10. According to KSFY ABC, Judge Schlimgen re-invoked Larson’s suspended sentence due and gave him two more years of probation. Larson’s jail sentence will remain suspended as long as he stays out of trouble and follows a number of terms and conditions set forth by the Minnehaha County State Attorney’s Office. If he violates his probation again, chances are the judge will not be as lenient next time. Larson remains indefinitely suspended from the Gators basketball team because his legal status had not yet been decided until Friday. Head coach Billy Donovan will likely reinstate him soon, as he did with junior F Erik Murphy after his case was settled.
2 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was fined $7,500 by the NFL on Friday due to an unnecessary roughness call he got Sunday against Houston. Pouncey was fined for what the NFL determined was a late hit, though Pouncey said he did not hear the whistle and will not let the fine affect him. “I’m not changing how I play,” he said.
3 » Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap was praised by Pro Football Focus as the second-highest rated player at his position in the league. Dunlap does not have a sack yet this season after registering 9.5 in 2010 (including 8.5 in the final six games). He does, however lead Cincinnati with eight quarterback pressures, which is a great sign for the player. “Once you get one usually you get on a roll. Right now though the first one is the toughest,” Dunlap told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I’m getting quarterback hits and pressures. Eventually they are going to turn into sacks.”
4 » On the injury front, New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (sprained MCL) returned to practice for the first time on Thursday since getting hurt in Week 2. He is considered “on track” to play. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy, who has yet to play this year due to a sports hernia/groin injury, resumed practicing this week but was limited. Murphy, a starter in 2010 who was looking like Oakland’s most promising receiver, has fallen on the depth chart due to his absence and will have to work his way back up. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham was injured during practice on Thursday. Graham hurt his hamstring and is questionable to play on Saturday. Though he may not be raking in the scores, he has been an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense up to this point.
Updating the item above, Hernandez is listed as questionable on the Patriots’ injury report, Murphy will miss one more week, and Pittsburgh’s new left tackle Max Starks has earned the starting role for Sunday’s game.
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