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.

Continue Reading » Top 10 for 2010: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Pouncey adds Pro Bowl to stellar rookie season

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey became the second Florida Gators rookie in as many seasons to be named to the NFL Pro Bowl.

He was selected as the back-up for the AFC to Nick Mangold of the New York Jets, who was tabbed for the third-straight season.

Pouncey follows in the footsteps of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who earned a Pro Bowl nomination last season as a rookie out of Florida. Harvin started for the NFC as a kick return specialist.

Barring injury, Pouncey will have started every game this season for Pittsburgh at center. He is a candidate for Offensive Rookie of the Year, an award that will likely go to St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and was also won by Harvin last season.

Pouncey is the 20th former Gators player to be picked for the Pro Bowl and only the fifth to receive the honor in his rookie season (Cris Collinsworth, Jevon Kearse, Emmitt Smith, Harvin).

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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FOUR BITS: Meyer, Shyatt, Pouncey, Loeffler

1 » In a piece published Thursday by FOX Sports, reporter Thayer Evans dives further into Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer’s attempts to regain his health and control of his football team. Among other notes, Evans reports that Meyer now uses his “lunch hour” each day to run and life weights. “It’s the first time he’s regularly exercised in years, but he’s so committed that he rescheduled his weekly media sessions during this season to 11:15 a.m. instead of noon like previous seasons,” the article states. There is plenty more (some of which you likely already know) on Meyer’s delegation techniques and other changes he is making to take care of himself.

2 » CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish had an opportunity to sit in on a two-day coaching clinic run by Florida assistant basketball coach Larry Shyatt, which featured a number of high-profile coaches and assistants “talking about a variety of subjects, exchanging ideas, discussing, debating,” etc. “This clinic is different,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said. “It’s just an exchange of ideas – coaches passing knowledge back and forth and trying to help each other, and I think that’s what’s great. This is what you get in it for, to coach and have fun and get better and help other guys get better.”

Three more BITS on Pouncey, Loeffler and Demps…after the break.
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Meyer, Shyatt, Pouncey, Loeffler

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Emmitt Smith to be enshrined in NFL Hall of Fame

Former Florida Gators running back and the NFL‘s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith leads the 2010 class that will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, on Aug. 7. Smith, who spent the majority of his 15-year professional career with the Dallas Cowboys, will be enshrined along with wide receiver Jerry Rice, defensive tackle John Randle, guard Russ Grimm, linebacker Rickey Jackson, RB Floyd Little and defensive back/coach Dick LeBeau. A rarity, Smith was elected in his first year of eligibility.

He holds NFL career records for rushing yards (18,355), rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard rushing games (78), is an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, four-time rushing champion (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995), four-time All-Pro first-team choice, three-time Super Bowl champion (XXVII, XXVIII, XXX), offensive rookie of the year, 1993 NFL most valuable player, Super Bowl XXVII MVP and member of the Ring of Honor for both the Gators and Cowboys.

“This is almost perfect,” Smith said upon learning of the honor back in Feb. “I don’t think even Steven Spielberg could have written a script this nice. [Rice and I] were rewarded on this day.”

In his first full game at Florida, Smith broke the Gators’ all-time single game rushing record (224 yards); he would go on to smash that record with a 316-yard game in 1989. He also set school records for rushing yards in a season (1,599 yards), longest rushing play (96 yards), career rushing yards (3,928) and career rushing touchdowns (36). In all, Smith was responsible for 58 Gators records in only three seasons on the field, many of which still stand today. Upon leaving for the NFL, he received a place in the school’s exclusive Ring of Honor and the College Football Hall of Fame.

Smith retired from football in Feb. 2005 after signing a one-day contract with the Cowboys. He will be the second Florida player to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame; former defensive end Jack Youngblood was inducted in 2001.

OGGOA will update this story after the ceremony with additional material. Portions of the above article were originally published here in Feb. 2010.

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SIX BITS: Murphy, Harvin, Jenkins, Hill, Nelson

1 » Held out of action with the Oakland Raiders over the weekend, former Florida Gators wide receiver Louis Murphy continues to struggle to recover from a concussion he suffered during camp on Friday when he got kneed in the helmet by Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugah. He complained of a bad headache Sunday and showcased some other symptoms, leading the training staff to decide that it was best to hold him out of workouts. Murphy remains out of action and is now having trouble with sunlight, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Vittorio Tafur. Head coach Tom Cable told the Associated Press that Murphy will be sitting until he passes a series of tests…something that looks to be at least a few days away.

2 » After tweaking his ankle earlier in the day, former Gators WR Percy Harvin returned to Minnesota Vikings practice on Saturday without a noticeable limp. Unfortunately, Harvin missed practice Sunday and will be absent Monday as well after learning of a death in his family. OGGOA‘s thoughts go out to Harvin during this difficult time.

3 » Florida juniors cornerback Janoris Jenkins and safety Will Hill were named to the 2010 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list on Monday – two of only 35 of the nation’s best defensive backs to be selected. Conspicuous by his absence once again is senior safety Ahmad Black. There is a long way to go and plenty of players will be added and removed to this list as the season progresses.

Three more BITS on Reggie Nelson, Brad Beal and Joe Haden…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Murphy, Harvin, Jenkins, Hill, Nelson

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Harvin carted off field, Murphy concussed at camp

Going into their sophomore NFL training camps each as one of the most dynamic players on their respective teams, former Florida Gators wide receivers Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy both suffered health-related setbacks Saturday.

Harvin, the 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, was carted off of the field during Minnesota Vikings practice according to reports out of the camp, while Murphy was held out of action with the Oakland Raiders with a concussion.

The extent of Harvin’s injury is not currently known, but many of his team’s coaches and players were unaware that it even occurred. This may speak to the severity of the injury being minor or simply the fact that no one saw exactly what happened.

UPDATE: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Harvin has returned to the field and is participating in Minnesota’s evening practice.

Murphy, on the other hand, suffered a concussion after getting kneed in the helmet by Pro Bowl cornerback Nnamdi Asomugah during camp on Friday. He complained of a bad headache and showcased some other symptoms, leading the training staff to decide that it was best to hold him out of workouts. Head coach Tom Cable told the Associated Press that Murphy will be sitting until he passes a series of tests.

OGGOA will keep you updated on the latest developments…

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SIX BITS: Wilder, Smith, Harvin, Ingram, Heat, golf

1 » Though he did not commit to the team as was rumored late last week due to a falsified e-mail, five-star athlete James Wilder, Jr. (Tampa, FL) does have a leader: the Florida Gators are the “team to beat,” according to Rivals’s Mark Wheeler. “Sources say [his upcoming visits are] more to confirm his choice of Florida than anything else,” Wheeler wrote. “Wilder Jr. is enthused that Florida looks to be moving to a more traditional power running game.” In addition to recruiting fullbacks, the Gators are “expected to still feature the dive play and many inside and off-tackle running plays, but instead of [Tim] Tebow carrying the ball, Wilder would be the guy. Throw in his comfort level at Florida as well as that of his family, and the Gators will be tough to beat.”

2 » Former Florida running back Emmitt Smith has done plenty in his career. An inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, he holds NFL career records for rushing yards (18,355), rushing touchdowns (164) and 100+ yard rushing games (78). The eight-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champion was also the 1989 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and is a member of the Gators’ Ring of Honor. But where he may have made his biggest impact is at Escambia High School, where he began his legacy. The Florida High School Athletic Association Player of the Century, Smith was not only a great player, his presence at the school helped ease racial tensions. “I wasn’t thinking about any racial tensions when I got to Escambia,” Smith told the Canton Repository. “It never dawned on me that I was part of a transformation at the school. I knew Escambia had a negative past, but I saw it was over and done with. I had played with white guys, black guys, all kinds of guys. Maybe that was me being naive.”

Four more BITS on Percy Harvin’s charity work, Cornelius Ingram’s knee, Gators on the Miami Heat and The Open Championship…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Wilder, Smith, Harvin, Ingram, Heat, golf

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FOUR BITS: Marshall, Fontana, Andrews, UGA AD

1 » Former Florida Gators linebacker, 1992 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and three-time Pro Bowler Wilber Marshall has decided to speak out about the proposed 18-game NFL season because he believes it is a money grab and will take a serious toll on players’ bodies. “I take meds just to walk,” he told Florida Today. “I don’t like taking them. I know what they do to the liver. I saw what happened to Walter [Payton]. So far, my head’s good. It’s just the rest of my body that doesn’t work. […] They should keep it at 16 games and eliminate the two preseason games anyway. But you know how it is. It’s all about the NFL making money, and not about the players’ health.”

2 » Florida freshman shortstop Nolan Fontana was named to the Rawlings NCAA Division I Gold Glove Team on Wednesday, the first player in school history to earn such an honor. The only freshman on the nine-player team, Fontana posted a .986 fielding percentage and only committing four errors in 279 chances in 2010.

3 » In the process of re-signing with ESPN, former Gators dazzler and current sideline reporter Erin Andrews will be featured in the August 2010 issue of Vanity Fair. Complete with an alluring photo spread, Andrews was interviewed by George Wayne who, safe to say, asked her some pretty ridiculous questions. Among them: “Do you have man-size feet like Paris Hilton?” “What is the one thing you take when feeling constipated?” and “What gets me to the vomitorium is that faux romance between you and that cheesy ballroom dancing partner of yours. What was with this tabloid fake romance?” Luckily for OGGOA’s male readers, Wayne’s somewhat absurd interview comes along with a video of Andrews’ photo shoot.

4 » Georgia Bulldogs athletic director Damon Evans was arrested on charges of driving under the influence Wednesday evening. Evans, driving a 2009 BMW, was pulled over just before midnight and is said to have smelled of alcohol while failing a field sobriety test. He refused a breathalyzer test and was released on his own recognizance Thursday morning. The University of Georgia is expected to release a statement sometime soon; some believe the school will ask him to resign.

Photo Credit: Patrick Fraser/Vanity Fair

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