Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2010 (check out our post tomorrow), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players signing huge contracts to current team members being a part of some of the biggest news stories in sports this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2010. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 10 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

10 » FIVE BECOME A PART OF THE GATOR NATION IN THE SKY
It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2010 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon and suddenly in all but one case. Lamar Abel (21), a walk-on defensive lineman, suffered cardiac arrest while volunteering at a roadside cleanup event with his fraternity in Gainesville, FL. Former safety John Curtis (24) committed suicide in Bellvue, WA. Hall of fame safety Jarvis Williams (45) passed away after an acute asthma attack. Former Gators basketball player and friend to the program Augie Greiner (76) died in his home. And long-time donor and Bull Gator George Steinbrenner (80), most famously known as the owner of the New York Yankees, passed away in a Tampa, FL, hospital. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

9 » ERIN ANDREWS GETS JUSTICE, STARS ON TV, RE-SIGNS WITH ESPN

Former Florida dazzler and ESPN reporter Erin Andrews had a much better go of it in 2010. Though her stalker plead guilty to his charges in court in December 2009, she spent a good portion of 2010 making sure he was brought to justice (27-month prison term) while also spreading word across the country that violence against women from sexual predators cannot and should not be tolerated. Simultaneously, Andrews participated in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and even dropped a few Gator Chomps along the way. She ended up finishing third in the competition but parlayed her talent on the sidelines into an enhanced gig with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. Andrews signed a new two-year deal with ESPN, which included a role hosting the first hour of College GameDay live on ESPNU, appearances on ABC’s Good Morning America and more of a presence on the family of networks. She also spoke with OGGOA on two occasions, first in a wide-ranging interview that received significant publicity and later to share her thoughts on the resignation of head coach Urban Meyer.

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DE Bobby McCray signed by Philadelphia Eagles

It has been a tough year for former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray. Shining in the playoffs last season for the New Orleans Saints, McCray was unexpectedly released by the defending Super Bowl champions after the team acquired fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason.

McCray was initially cut because he was due a $1.25 million roster bonus even though he wrecked havoc on then-Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 and compiled 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans. The team re-signed him in July but cut him just a month later; he has yet to play in 2010.

On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles decided to release DE Derrick Burgess and tabbed McCray for their playoff run. He is expected to join the team immediately and could play as soon as Sunday at home against Dallas.

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FOUR BITS: Ingram, Noah, James, Harvin

1 » ESPN‘s Chris Mortensen reported Thursday that former Florida Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram has returned to the Philadelphia Eagles – the team that drafted him in 2009 and cut him earlier this year – as a member of the practice squad. Ingram was expected to make an impact for the Eagles this season but was limited once again with a knee injury that forced him to miss a lot of training camp. He hopes to earn his way back on the team through the practice squad but could theoretically be signed off of it by another organization at any time.

2 » OGGOA had some choice words about Boston Celtics forward Kevin Garnett on our Twitter account last week. It seems Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah somewhat agrees with our sentiments as he called out Garnett on the radio on Wednesday. “Kevin Garnett will not – will not – get a Christmas gift from me,” Noah said jokingly. “I don’t like him. He’s a very mean guy. Where’s the love? None at all. Ugly, too. I had his poster in my room. I used to wear his jersey. And the truth is, my rookie year, I was in admiration of the guy and he kind of shut me down. And he was very mean to me my rookie year. And he’s only mean to the young guys and the [European players] for some reason. I don’t know why, but that’s who he doesn’t like. He’s not nice. I talk a lot of trash out there, but c’mon, be a little sensitive. Be sweet.” Though Noah says a lot of things tongue-in-cheek and likes to joke around, he does consider Garnett a “dirty player” who “is who he is.”

3 » According to the Indianapolis Star, former Gators wide receiver/kick returner Brandon James has been promoted from the Indianapolis Colts’ practice squad to their active roster effective immediately. James will (at least temporarily) fill WR Austin Collie’s roster spot while he recovers from a concussion sustained last weekend. Though he may not see the field as a receiver unless one of the Colts’ current starters gets injured, James may be able to see the field as soon as Sunday as the team’s kick returner. Keep your eyes peeled on Indianapolis’ game this weekend and look for a 5’7”, 170 lb. speed demon – especially on special teams.

4 » Minnesota Vikings WR Percy Harvin missed practice yesterday after coming down with another migraine headache. Harvin, who dealt with severe bouts in the offseason but was able to get things under control after meeting with doctors and learning that he suffered from sleep apnea, is still expected to play this weekend. He is still recovering from an injured ankle but that did not stop him from posting a career-high 126 receiving yards last week while limping around.

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Former Gators McDonald, Cooper shine Sunday

Though OGGOA will still be posting our Florida Gators in the NFL week seven recap on Monday, we wanted to take a moment to showcase the performances of two players in particular who made big plays for their respective teams on Sunday.

» San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald with a pick-six:

» Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper brought in a great 43-yard reception. He also scored his first career NFL touchdown and was taught how with a Gator Chomp to celebrate by teammate running back LeSean McCoy:

Special thanks to OGGOA Twitter follower John C. for the final video.

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NFL cuts deliver good and bad news for ex-Gators

NFL teams were required to trim their active rosters to 53 men on Saturday, which meant a number of former Florida Gators were on the fence about whether or not they would make their respective teams going into the 2010-11 season.

GOOD NEWS

» As expected, all nine Gators selected in the 2010 NFL Draft made it through training camp and the preseason.

» Former Florida wide receiver David Nelson, who signed an undrafted free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills after the draft, was told Saturday afternoon that he made the team. “Officially a Buffalo Bill,” Nelson wrote to his Twitter account. “Thanks to everyone for the support and prayers through this long but rewarding process!”

» Though it is not believed he was in complete danger of making the cut, former Gators safety Reggie Nelson got what he will likely consider his own form of good news Saturday, as the Jacksonville Jaguars decided to trade him to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals, in need of safety help after losing Gibril Wilson to a season-ending injury, decided to trade cornerback David Jones and a conditional draft pick to the Jaguars. Nelson will be reunited with wide receiver Andre Caldwell and defensive end Carlos Dunlap in Cincinnati.

BAD NEWS

» Tight end Cornelius Ingram has faced plenty of adversity since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament during his senior season with Florida. Drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 153 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, Ingram proceeded to tear the same ACL again as a rookie during training camp. Finally back at near full speed, he had been playing well for the Eagles this offseason until a baker’s cyst in his knee kept him out of action. Ingram was released by Philadelphia on Saturday but will be a candidate to land on the team’s practice squad should he go unclaimed.

» Even though he scored three touchdowns in the Indianapolis Colts‘ final preseason game, former Gators kick returner Brandon James did not make the cut with one of the top teams in the AFC. Instead, the team elected to sign Devin Moore for that job. James did muff a punt that was returned for the touchdown during the preseason and will likely be picked up as a practice squad player with either the Colts or another team.

» One of the team’s most valuable defensive players throughout the 2009 playoffs, former Gators defensive end Bobby McCray was cut by the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, just over a month after the team brought him back (they originally let him go on June 21). In the offseason, the Saints signed fellow former Florida DE Alex Brown, who will be a starter for New Orleans this season.

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FOUR BITS: Meyer’s text, Brown, Murphy, Barney

1 » Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer reached out to redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley’s father recently to let him know that his son has really impressed him. “I said, ‘Enjoy the ride. Your son has grown up to be a man,’” Meyer explained. “I hope I get that same text some day from someone. That’s really cool. It’s the truth. What he’s done here in the last year has been exactly what we needed to have happen, and that is he’s grown up. He’s the leader of this team, and he’s Johnny Brantley. That’s good enough for us.” John Brantley III, a former Florida quarterback himself, was certainly proud.

2 » Saturday’s game against the Miami (OH) RedHawks is big for a number of Gators but perhaps no one is relishing the moment more than redshirt sophomore cornerback Jeremy Brown. “Words can’t explain. It’s a very special moment for me and my family because two years ago, I ran out the tunnel and couldn’t play. I wasn’t officially a Gator. To be able to contribute is a special moment,” Brown said. “A lot of times I feel like some people take football and the opportunity to be at a prestigious program like Florida – they take it for granted. They take practice for granted. Workouts, things you get every day – they take stuff like that for granted. When you’re on the verge of not playing football gain, you learn to appreciate things a lot more. You learn to appreciate the uniform. I was close to losing everything.”

3 » Two Florida women were honored with Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for their respective sports. Volleyball’s junior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy and soccer’s redshirt sophomore midfielder McKenzie Barney were each awarded Monday for their outstanding performances in their teams’ first week of 2010 action.

4 » Providing opportunities for kids to play organized sports, The C.I. Foundation (sponsored by Philadelphia Eagles tight end Cornelius Ingram) is attempting to raise money by giving way a fantastic seven-day, all-inclusive vacation (including airfare) to Sandals Resort in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Their newest campaign, called “$10.00 for C.h.I.l.dren,” allows for fans and generous individuals to donate as little as $10 for the opportunity to win this fantastic trip. A winner will be announced on Sept. 15. For more information on how you can donate and enter, you can click right here.

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Gators’ rookies continue to roll in preseason

Four weeks of preseason action have now come to a conclusion, and the majority of the Florida Gators‘ 10 rookies have been regularly participating for their respective teams. OGGOA takes a look at how they have been performing thus far with only one more week to go before the 2010-11 NFL regular season begins.

QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos
Game 3 Passing: 5-of-10 for 72 yards, one TD, one INT (14.4 avg., 67.5 QB rating)
Game 2: Did not play – ribs
Game 1 Passing: 8-of-13 for 105 yards (8.1 avg., 87.0 QB rating)
Game 1 Rushing: Two carries for 10 yards, one touchdown

CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns
Game 3 Defense: Five tackles (two solo), one pass defended
Game 3 Kick returning: one attempt for 12 yards
Game 2 Defense: Two tackles (one solo), two passes defended
Game 2 Kick returning: Two attempts for 43 yards (long 28)
Game 1 Defense: Three solo tackles, one pass defended
Game 1 Kick returning: One attempt for 34 yards

C MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers
Game 3: Worked as first-team center
Game 2: Worked as first-team center
Game 1: Worked as first-team guard, second-team center

LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots
Game 3: Did not play – undisclosed
Game 2: Did not play – undisclosed
Game 1: Did not play – concussion

DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals
Game 4 Defense: One tackle (one solo), two QB hits
Game 3 Defense: Four tackles (three solo), one sack, one Gator Chomp
Game 2 Defense: One tackle
Game 1 Defense: Did not play – concussion

LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots
Game 3 Defense: Seven tackles (five solo), one QB hit
Game 2 Defense: Three solo tackles
Game 1 Defense: Eight tackles (three solo) [team-high]

S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears
Game 3: Did not play – finger
Game 2: Did not play – finger
Game 1 Defense: Seven tackles (six solo)

TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots
Game 3: Did not play – undisclosed
Game 2 Receiving: Four receptions for 46 yards [team-highs], one touchdown
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 26 yards (long 21)
Game 1 Rushing: One carry for six yards

WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles
Game 3 Receiving: Three receptions for 39 yards [T-team highs], one touchdown
Game 2 Receiving: Two receptions for 22 yards
Game 2 Special Teams: Two tackles
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 61 yards (long 46) [team-high]

WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills
Game 3: Two receptions for 34 yards, one touchdown
Game 2: Did not play – ankle
Game 1 Receiving: Five receptions for 47 yards [team-highs], one touchdown

KR BRANDON JAMES, Indianapolis Colts
Game 3 Kick returning: Six attempts for 144 yards (avg. 24, long 34)
Game 3 Punt returning: Two attempts for six yards, one fumble
Game 2 Punt returning: Two attempts for 22 yards (long 19)
Game 1 Kick returning: Four attempts for 99 yards (avg. 24.8, long 28)
Game 1 Punt returning: One attempt for five yards
Game 1 Receiving: One reception for two yards

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Florida rookies complete less impressive week

The first week of the 2010 NFL preseason saw 10 Florida Gators rookies in action, many of whom contributed nicely to their respective team’s performances. Due to injuries and other circumstances, there was much less action in the second week of the preseason for these Gators. Nevertheless, OGGOA is here to recap.

QB TIM TEBOW, Denver Broncos
Game 2: Did not play – ribs
Game 1 Passing: 8-of-13 for 105 yards (8.1 avg., 87.0 QB rating)
Game 1 Rushing: Two carries for 10 yards, one touchdown

CB JOE HADEN, Cleveland Browns
Game 2 Defense: Two tackles (one solo), two passes defended
Game 2 Kick returning: Two attempts for 43 yards (long 28)
Game 1 Defense: Three solo tackles, one pass defended
Game 1 Kick returning: One attempt for 34 yards

G MAURKICE POUNCEY, Pittsburgh Steelers
Game 2: Worked as first-team center
Game 1: Worked as first-team guard, second-team center

LB JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots
Game 2: Did not play – undisclosed
Game 1: Did not play – concussion

DE CARLOS DUNLAP, Cincinnati Bengals
Game 3 Defense: Four tackles (three solo), one sack, one Gator Chomp
Game 2 Defense: One tackle
Game 1 Defense: Did not play – concussion

LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots
Game 2 Defense: Three solo tackles
Game 1 Defense: Eight tackles (three solo) [team-high]

S MAJOR WRIGHT, Chicago Bears
Game 2: Did not play – finger
Game 1 Defense: Seven tackles (six solo)

TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots
Game 2 Receiving: Four receptions for 46 yards [team-highs], one touchdown
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 26 yards (long 21)
Game 1 Rushing: One carry for six yards

WR RILEY COOPER, Philadelphia Eagles
Game 2 Receiving: Two receptions for 22 yards
Game 2 Special Teams: Two tackles
Game 1 Receiving: Three receptions for 61 yards (long 46) [team-high]

WR DAVID NELSON, Buffalo Bills
Game 2: Did not play – ankle
Game 1 Receiving: Five receptions for 47 yards [team-highs], one touchdown

KR BRANDON JAMES, Indianapolis Colts
Game 2 Punt returning: Two attempts for 22 yards (long 19)
Game 1 Kick returning: Four attempts for 99 yards (avg. 24.8, long 28)
Game 1 Punt returning: One attempt for five yards
Game 1 Receiving: One reception for two yards

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