DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

Having returned home to New Jersey now that his Florida Gators career has come to a close, defensive end Justin Trattou took some time out from training for upcoming NFL workouts to sit down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging interview.

Trattou, who plans to return to Gainesville, FL to showcase his talents for NFL scouts and coaches at Florida’s Pro Day, recounted his collegiate career and looked ahead to his future during our conversation. Check it out below!

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You made all-state as a junior and senior and won the New Jersey state title in your final season. What was it like to see four years of hard work pay off?
JUSTIN TRATTOU: “It was definitely a huge accomplishment. My senior year, me and those guys, we went to the state championship in my sophomore and junior year and lost both times. That senior year we went 12-0, ran the table and then blew out St. Peters 41-0. That was a great way to go out. And then I ended up going to the All-American game and did well there, so it was definitely a good way to go into college.”

AS: For a while you were committed to Notre Dame, but you eventually switched to Florida. What made you change your mind, and how did all that come about?
JT: “After my season ended, I kind of just committed to get it out of the way and concentrate on my senior year. I didn’t want to be bothered by people. After I won the state championship and everything was all good, I started looking around again. Took a visit down to Florida and immediately fell in love with the place – The Swamp and the whole atmosphere. I knew that was the place for me.”

AS: Was it tough telling Notre Dame that you had switched?
JT: “At the end of the day, I’m the one that has to live it out. I didn’t owe anybody anything, so it was definitely my choice.”

AS: During your recruitment, Charlie Weis was the Notre Dame head coach. Obviously he’s now the offensive coordinator at Florida. Can you talk about the type of recruiter he was – his demeanor in your home, how he spoke to you, etc?
JT: “It was always good. Obviously I ended up committing there, so… He was definitely good. For me personally, I just wanted to go to Florida.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Justin Trattou…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Trattou: “I’m glad we went out the right way”

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FOUR BITS: Crowder, Gonzales, Fox, Andrews

You can view the rest of the pictures from this photoshoot right here.

1 » Before returning to coach in college, new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp spent a season coordinating the defense under Nick Saban in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. As a rookie third-round draft choice, former Gators linebacker Channing Crowder played for Muschamp and was thrilled to learn he was hired to lead his alma mater. “He’s an energetic dude. I’m excited for him,’’ Crowder told MiamiDolphins.com writer Andy Kent, who related his thoughts to the University of Florida senior writer Scott Carter. “He’s a proven defensive coordinator and he knows defense. When he was here I want to say we were the No. 3 or No. 4 defense in the league. He’s just a smart dude and he’s going to be a young head coach. He’s going to bring energy to the team. Urban [Meyer] was a great coach but he was more of that laid-back, dictator type. Will’s going to get in there and get dirty with the guys and I think he’s going to be great for Florida. […] Now he’s going to be in the spotlight at Florida, especially coming into the situation he’s coming into with a proven program. I think it was a great hire and I think he’ll bring a lot of excitement.’’

2 » Passed over for Steve Addazio for the open offensive coordinator position with the Gators, Billy Gonzales left his post as wide receivers coach under Meyer to join the LSU Tigers staff for the same position with the enhanced title of “passing game coordinator.” Though the Tigers are now searching for a new offensive coordinator, ESPN‘s Bruce Feldman reports that head coach Les Miles will be looking to fill the position with someone outside the program. It should be noted that, contrary to Feldman’s report, there are rumors that Gonzales is the frontrunner for the position. Those have not yet been confirmed.

3 » Denver Broncos president John Elway announced Thursday afternoon that he and the organization have decided to hire veteran John Fox as the team’s next head coach. Fox, who will be faced with a number of important decisions in his first year including deciding whether or not Tim Tebow is his starting quarterback, had glowing things to say about the Heisman Trophy winner before the 2010 NFL Draft. “[Tebow] had a very, very good workout,” Fox said last March at Florida’s Pro Day. “He doesn’t lack in the work ethic department, so whatever needs to be done, he’ll do. I definitely saw some adjustment and I thought he executed very well.” He said later that Tebow is “a guy that has a great work ethic … that if there’s something that needs to be fixed, he can fix it.” Asked about his talent compared to his intangibles, Fox referenced another quarterback who was overlooked by some. “Did you ever watch Bernie Kosar play?” Fox said at a league meeting last year. “Bernie might not appreciate it, but I call it as I see it. He won a lot of games. So it’s not all just how pretty they are [or] how big.”

4 » Former Florida dazzler and current ESPN reporter Erin Andrews has signed an endorsement deal with Reebok to promote the company’s ZigTech brand. Joining names like Peyton Manning, Chad Ochocinco, John Wall and Sidney Crosby, Andrews will pitch the company’s footwear and apparel while helping to expand the ZigTech brand’s reach to a female audience. “I’m very excited to be the first female to become part of Reebok’s ZigTech campaign,” she said in an official statement. “I have been athletic all my life, and I’m thrilled to be working out in the same footwear and apparel that helps these athletes perform at the top of their game.”

Photo Credit: Reebok

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FOUR BITS: Bruns’ award, Dunlap, James, Wright

1 » Florida Gators lacrosse’s freshman attacker Ashley Bruns was named the 2010 American Lacrosse Conference Rookie of the Year on Tuesday. Bruns, one of the top recruits in the country, led Florida’s inaugural lacrosse team in goals (44) and assists (30) while taking home numerous honors over the course of the season. She also earned a spot on the All-ALC Second Team along with teammates freshman midfielders Brittany Dashiell and Jamie Reeg.

2 » Former Gators defensive end Carlos Dunlap is already finding a level of comfort with the Cincinnati Bengals. He knows exactly what the team expects of him and hopes to exceed their projections. “They drafted me to be a pass rusher. That’s definitely something I want to be the best at on the team, so I can be that guy,” said Dunlap according to CNATI.com. “I’m just working on that and working on becoming an NFL player. […] It’s a passing league. If you can be a dominant pass rusher, you can be one of the dominant players in the league.”

3 » By all appearances, former Florida kick returner Brandon James had a rough year in 2010, culminating with a season-ending injury that kept him out of the postseason. Unable to compete at most pre-draft workouts, James was counting on his college production and workout at the Gators’ second Pro Day to fuel interest. The Indianapolis Colts recognized his talent, signing him to an undrafted free agent contract after the 2010 NFL Draft completed. Now, James believes he can greatly impact the former Super Bowl champions (at least) on special teams. “That’s an area I can help in,” he told the Indianapolis Star. “If not making big plays, then putting [the offense] in good field position. If you put the offense at the 40- or 50-yard line, the chances [of scoring] are a lot greater than if it starts at the 18 or 20. That’s what I feel like I’m here for.” In order to remain “here,” James will have to beat out Indiana’s Ray Fisher, a seventh-round pick who is also attempting to make the team as the primary returner.

4 » Though he spent a good amount of time at Florida as a strong safety, Major Wright is already competing for the starting free safety job with the Chicago Bears, according to the Daily Herald. Wright, the Bears’ third-round selection, is ready and raring to go. “I was like, ‘Wow my dream’s come true,’” he said. “I dreamed about this when I was younger and it’s here. Now I just have to go out and hustle and just stay focused.”

Photo Credit: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

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Tebow makes rounds on Denver radio Tuesday

Now that he has survived his first minicamp with the Denver Broncos, former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow is, according to a radio show producer, back in Tennessee working out until the team reconvenes in a few weeks. To keep Tebowmania going throughout Colorado, he called in to two radio talk shows Tuesday morning, each interview having to be pushed back because of a personal workout.

With Gary and Vic of ESPN 1600 waiting for him to call in at 7:40 a.m. (MDT), his publicist moved him back to 8:30 a.m., eliciting the following joking banter from the hosts during the commercial break: “Jesus has him at 8:00, Mary Magdalene has him at 8:15, and he’s building an orphanage at 8:20.” Upon his call-in about an hour later, they told a producer off the air to “start a conversation with him…talk about rosary beads or something.” However, before he went back-and-forth with Gary and Vic, Tebow spoke to the guys with The Score on AM 1510 at 8:20 a.m.

After the break are some notable quotes from his two radio appearances:
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Gators WR Riley Cooper falls to fifth round of 2010 NFL Draft, picked up by Eagles with pick No. 159

Round 5 – No. 159
Riley Cooper, WR
Philadelphia Eagles


Height: 6’3″ – Weight: 222 lbs.
Age: 22 – Class: Senior

His solid showings at the 2010 Senior Bowl, 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and University of Florida‘s Pro Day left many believing he would be taken in the second day of the 2010 NFL Draft. Instead, former Florida Gators wide receiver Riley Cooper fell until the fifth round before being scooped up by the Philadelphia Eagles with the No. 159 overall selection.

Marred with injuries at the beginning of his Florida career, Cooper left the Gators with 81 receptions for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He started every game his senior season, hauling in 51 balls for 961 yards and nine scores as the team’s top wide receiver.

The selection of Cooper marks the second-straight year Philadelphia has picked a Florida pass catcher in the fifth round. The Eagles chose tight end Cornelius Ingram (who sat out the season after re-injuring his ACL) with the No. 153 overall pick in 2009.

Cooper was the ninth former Gator selected this year’s draft (tops of any school), and the seventh Florida receiver chosen since 2006.

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Major upgrade for Bears as Wright is only Gators’ player taken in third round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 3 – No. 75
Major Wright, S
Chicago Bears


Height: 5’11” – Weight: 206 lbs.
Age: 21 – Class: Junior

The Chicago Bears waited patiently for almost two full days before making their first selection of the 2010 NFL Draft, using the No. 75 overall pick in the third round to select former Florida Gators safety Major Wright.

He was the first Florida player at his position to be drafted since Reggie Nelson (No. 21, Jacksonville Jaguars – 2007) and goes to a team which hopes he can step in and play right away.

“You hate to talk about rookies being one of the starters right away,” Chicago head coach Lovie Smith said when discussing Wright, “but […] he’s our first pick. We’re expecting big things from him.”

Wright was explosive for the Gators in 2008 but experienced reduced playing time in 2009 when the team decided to utilize three safeties. His decision to declare for the draft was seen as a mistake by many in Gator Nation, but his stock rose with each passing event as he was impressive at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine and Florida’s Pro Day.

He is the first Gators player to be selected by the Bears since the team took three former University of Florida student-athletes in 2003: quarterback Rex Grossman (first round), defensive tackle Ian Scott and safety Todd Johnson (both fourth round).

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Browns nab Gators CB Joe Haden with No. 7 overall pick in first round of 2010 NFL Draft

Round 1 – No. 7
Joe Haden, CB
Cleveland Browns


Height: 5’11” – Weight: 193 lbs.
Age: 20 – Class: Junior

Months of speculation came to an end Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected former Florida Gators cornerback Joe Haden with the No. 7 overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. In attendance at Radio City Music Hall in New York, NY, Haden’s eyes swelled up when he received the phone call from Cleveland before he took the stage with gusto to take a picture with league commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Browns had been drooling over Haden since at least March 1, with general manager Tom Heckert making his intentions known rather publicly. “I think Haden is a heck of a football player,” Heckert said. “He’s probably one of the top corners, if not the top corner in the draft. He’s played at a big-time program, and they won a ton of games. He’s going to go early.”

Considering Haden has only been playing cornerback for three years (he set Maryland state high school records as a quarterback), his emergence as a shut-down corner in the talent-rich Southeastern Conference became the stuff of legends around the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, which he completed with less than stellar reviews after posting slow 40-yard dash times.

Haden corrected his speed at Florida’s Pro Day, impressing those in attendance including almost the entire Cleveland front office. Team president Mike Holmgren and head coach Eric Mangini met with Haden shortly after his Pro Day for a private workout and invited him to visit the team facility on April 6.

If the team’s comments are any indication, Haden has a legitimate shot to start as a rookie in 2010 opposite CB Eric Wright with veteran Sheldon Brown moving to safety; should he not be ready right away, he could play in nickel and dime packages until he is able to step in to a starting role.

The fourth defensive player from the University of Florida to be drafted in the top 10, Haden is also the highest-selected Gators cornerback of all-time.

WHAT HADEN SAID
Press Conference Transcript
Press Conference Audio
“I am just trying to soak it all up. It’s crazy. Just a dream come true. I feel like this is like a blessing. I definitely had a good idea about that when I talked to [team president Mike] Holmgren. He definitely was telling me that they were really, really interested in taking me at No. 7. And once he told me that, it just made me have a sigh of relief. Then once I left my visit in Cleveland, I really didn’t have contact with anyone from Cleveland, so I didn’t know if they just stopped liking me or what happened so I just came in here didn’t know what was going on.”

WHAT THEY SAID
Press Conference Transcript
General manager Tom Hickert: “Joe was a guy we spent a lot of time with and evaluating. He’s a bigger corner that can really play the run, good cover ability. He’s a smart kid and he’s tough. He’s a guy we liked all along.”

Head coach Eric Mangini: “He did a great job the day he visited. You could feel the intensity, feel the passion, how much he cared about playing football and continue to improve. It was real. I don’t think there was anybody that met him that didn’t feel that way.”

Head coach Urban Meyer: “I’m happy for Joe and his family. He is one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. He came to Florida as an offensive skill player who never played cornerback. He approached the coaching staff about changing positions because he wanted to get on the field. Despite not playing cornerback in high school he developed into one of the best ever to play his position at the University of Florida and is now a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”

THINGS TO READ
– Haden Browns choice at No. 7
– Heckert, Mangini intrigued by Haden
– Cleveland Browns select Florida cornerback Joe Haden in 2010 NFL Draft
– Cleveland Browns don’t get their safety, so they go with the safe pick
– Joe Haden joins Cleveland Browns with strong endorsement from teammate Tim Tebow
– Cleveland Browns find a defensive playmaker, and that decision is hard to argue
– Browns don’t buy buzz, go ahead with Haden pick

VIDEO
Haden on stage at 2010 NFL Draft with Commissioner Roger Goodell

Heckert and Mangini talk about picking Haden

Cleveland Plain-Dealer writers discuss the Browns’ selection of Haden

OGGOA will continue updating this story.

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DE Jermaine Cunningham: “It’s overwhelming.”

Former Florida Gators defensive end Jermaine Cunningham is a busy man these days. After being evaluated and interviewed by dozens of NFL teams in preparation for the 2010 NFL Draft, he has been spending time working out, flying out for a private visit with the St. Louis Rams and spending time with his family back at home. OGGOA caught up with Cunningham as he was on his way to his cousin’s play. Lucky for us, he answered every question we had touching on a variety of subjects including his time with the Gators and his future in the NFL.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Thanks for giving us some time with you…how’s everything going?
JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM: “Everything is going good.”

AS: Let’s start at the end of last season and work forward. What was Senior Day like for you, playing your last game in The Swamp?
JC: “It was a great time. I had my family around me. It just being the last game in the Swamp – finishing my career on a good note.”

AS: When you look back on your time at Florida, does any one play you made stand out above the rest? Anything specific you will remember?
JC: “I would probably have to say the last play of the National Championship game. Watching the celebration, everyone be happy – us winning the National Championship.”

Read the rest of our interview with Jermaine Cunningham…after the break!
Continue Reading » DE Jermaine Cunningham: “It’s overwhelming.”

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