Former Florida Gators in NFL: Conference (2012)

The 2012-13 NFL Playoffs continued this past the weekend with seven former Florida Gators football players spread over all four teams that competed on Sunday.

At the conclusion of play there were two total players on rosters of teams that advanced to Super Bowl XLVII.

A total of five players participated in Conference Championship Round action with two others either inactive or injured.

For the third-straight year, OGGOA has checked and re-checked the box scores to bring you a summary of what all of these Gators accomplished during the third week of the 2012-13 postseason.

LB MIKE PETERSON, Atlanta Falcons: Played as a reserve
DE JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM, New England Patriots: Solo tackle
TE AARON HERNANDEZ, New England Patriots: Nine receptions [team-high] for 83 yards (targets: 14 – team-high, long: 17); rush for six yards [Player of the Week]
LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots: 11 tackles (six solo) [team-highs], QB hit
DE RAY MCDONALD, San Francisco 49ers: Five tackles (three solo)

WR DEONTE THOMPSON*, Baltimore Ravens: Inactive
RB JEFF DEMPS*, New England Patriots: Injured – “ankle” (season)

– San Francisco (McDonald) will face Baltimore (Thompson) in the Super Bowl.
– A former Gators football player is guaranteed to win a Super Bowl ring.

* Rookie

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Dillman, gym, Jenkins, Powell

1 » Appearing Monday on WKOV 690 AM in Jacksonville, FL, new Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan responded to a caller who was wondering if he would consider trading for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow should he be made available. “You know something? I think I can tell you this. I had a long chat with Wayne [Weaver] that year. Obviously the Rams drafted Sam Bradford, and I was talking to Wayne then on what they ought to do,” Khan said. “I should have an offline conversation with you, OK? I’m going to absolutely talk your ear off. Some of the stuff might not be politically correct, but I share your sentiment. I think, when is the next time Jacksonville is going to have an athlete like Tim Tebow? Coming from being raised in Illinois, I couldn’t see Red Grange playing for anybody other than the Bears or Dick Butkus playing for anybody other than the Bears. I don’t want to get into 20/20 hindsight, and God help us, the draft record has not been the best with the Jaguars.”

Khan was then asked by the host if he would have drafted Tebow had he been owner of the Jaguars at the time. “100 percent I would have. Absolutely,” he said. “The first Jaguars game I came to was in ’10, we played Denver here. There were a lot more Tebow jerseys in the Jaguars stands than the teal jerseys for any player, let’s face it. You hate to get into 20/20 hindsight and finger pointing, but certainly [I would have] if I had anything to do with it. We probably won’t have a chance like that again.”

2 » Even though his team is not participating in Super Bowl XLVI, Tebow will be in Indianapolis, IN for festivities over the course of the week. He will also be a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday along with actor/comedian Tracy Morgan and musical group All American Rejects. Tebow’s name has been a hot topic on Fallon’s show recently as the host as done a parody character of him and David Bowie and also used him in a number of jokes over the last few weeks.

3 » The Florida Gators have put together an introductory video featuring the team’s new strength and conditioning staff including most notably director Jeff Dillman and assistant Jesse Ackerman. The duo discuss their mental and physical approach to strength and conditioning over a video featuring a number of Florida players lifting weights and working out. You can check it out by clicking here.

4 » No. 8 Gators gymnastics (6-0, 2-0 SEC) put together an unbelievable performance on Friday, registering the fifth-highest total in team history and the top score in the nation this season, 197.775, to defeat the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-1, 2-1 SEC) and No. 24 Maryland Terrapins (4-4) and Bridgeport in a quad-meet at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Four Florida gymnasts won events with sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto winning the uneven bars (9.95), junior Marissa King taking the balance beam (9.95), junior Ashanée Dickerson capturing the all-around (39.60) and both Dickerson and freshman Kytra Hunter tying to win the floor exercise (9.95). According to UF, Friday was the first time the Gators had defeated a top-ranked team at home since 1989.

5 » North Alabama and former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins put together a solid performance in the 2012 Senior Bowl on Saturday and is in the process of working his way into the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. As part of this journey, he quit smoking marijuana, which he was arrested for three times and ultimately got him dismissed from UF. “I learned as a young man, you can’t smoke weed; it don’t get you where you want to go,” Jenkins told The Florida Times-Union. “As a kid I had to learn for myself. I learned for myself when I found out the hard way. I just thank God for letting that happen to me early and not late. […] I tell everybody now if you’re going to come around me and smoke weed, I can’t hang around you,” he said. “We’re friends, but while you’re smoking marijuana, I can’t hang around you.”

6 » With National Signing Day less than 48 hours away, the Gators are hoping to haul in a number of top prospects that still have them high on their list. As it turns out, Florida may actually end up losing a commitment due to his grades and a potential learning disability. Four-star linebacker Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL), who committed to the Gators almost a year ago, recently visited the Marshall Thundering Herd and enjoyed his trip. According to, it has become a legitimate landing spot for him because of the school’s H.E.L.P. Program which provides “educational support, remediation and mentoring to individuals” with specific learning disabilities or disorders like ADD/ADHD. Powell must pass one more high school class and improve his ACT score in order to get into UF, obstacles that could have him instead decide to commit to Marshall.

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SIX BITS: Young, Orr, Horford, Spikes, Donovan

1 » Florida Gators head basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to insist he is not too worried about sophomore center Patric Young’s ankle, noting Monday that team doctors have determined he is not in jeopardy of aggravating or worsening the injury though he will “deal with periodically some discomfort and he’s going to have to work his way through that.” “He’s fine right now,” Donovan said. “I don’t expect him to miss practice. He’s not complaining of anything. It could flare up. Patric’s never really I think ever had a sprained ankle. He’s never really dealt with this before so it’s all new to him.” Young himself said that doctors have told him the tendinitis has to do with the lining of his joints and that he does not have any tears or sprains. “It was just from overuse or something like that. It’s just a nagging thing, like a lot of pain whenever I try to just move or walk, lateral movements really affect it,” he said. “I still can’t really jump too well off my right foot and not too well off of two feet. When it comes time for the game, I’m normally ready and it doesn’t really bother me. After a certain level, I have to pass the threshold of pain and then I don’t feel it anymore.” It is unknown whether or not Donovan intends to start Young for the first time in three games on Thursday at Ole Miss.

2 » Gators redshirt freshman defensive tackle Leon Orr, who received a written arrest on Jan. 10 and was given a notice to appear in court for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, has agreed to deferred prosecution with the State Attorney’s Office, according to Florida Today. As a result of the agreement, Orr will pay $50 in court costs and either an additional $150 fine or perform 12.5 hours of community service. Orr was the fifth player to be charged with possession of marijuana since head coach Will Muschamp took over in Jan. 2011. “At the end of the day a mistake was made, and I’ve learned from it,” he tweeted on Jan. 19. Orr played in all 13 games in 2011, registering 10 tackles, a sack and a pass defense.

3 » There is not much to talk about in regards to Atlanta Hawks forward/center Al Horford now that he is out at least until the end of April with a torn labrum. However, ESPN’s Marc Stein dropped an interesting note about Horford in his Friday column, explaining that he is “a likely down-the-road top contender to succeed” Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Derek Fisher as president of the players’ union two years from now when the latter’s contract expires. Known for his personable yet serious character, Horford is already heavily involved with the league serving as one of the NBA’s biggest international ambassadors. A shift into a role like this would seem natural to many who know him, and Horford himself even tweeted “Maybe…” when a fan asked if he was up for the gig on Jan. 22.

4 » Media shy New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes got on the phone with WEEI radio in Boston, MA following his team’s victory in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. Spikes told the hosts that the win was “a dream come true, a childhood dream” and he was “just trying to take it all in right now and enjoy it tonight with my teammates and family.” Missing the majority of the season with a knee injury, Spikes was proud that his late-game interception was able to impact the team. “I don’t want to let nobody down. I want to take my responsibilities and just make a play, and I’ve done that,” he said. There are plenty of Spikes fans in the Patriots organization including owner Robert Kraft, who took the phone and discussed Spikes during the segment (which can be heard in full here). “Do you know how lucky we are to have Brandon Spikes on the team? He’s the man; he’s the man. He told me we were going to win that game and when he made that interception that was so cool,” Kraft beamed. “He told me he was going to do it for Myra [Kraft’s deceased wife]. […] I love having this man on our team.”

5 » Donovan has been quite pleased with guards junior Kenny Boynton and freshman Bradley Beal all year long, even as the youngster was going through a tough slump toward the end of the non-conference slate. In regards to Boynton, Donovan has seen the notiable improvement in his shot and knows that it will continue to progress and not regress as the season goes on. He’s also pleased that Boynton is driving to the basket, taking pull-up jumpers and getting to the free throw line on a more consistent basis. With Beal, Donovan is happy to see that he has continued his quick maturing process. “When you’re a talented offensive player and when you’re on the court, a lot of times your scoring has a direct [correlation on] the outcome of the game when you’re in high school and your team needs you to score,” he explained. “Sometimes your identity gets wrapped up in scoring. He’s starting to figure out right now that there’s so much more he can do.”

6 » The University of Florida and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that outfielder Kelsey Bruder (softball) and catcher Mike Zunino (baseball) have been named the 2011 Ben Hill Griffin Award winners. The honor, which is given to “the top male and female student-athletes…is based primarily on athletic achievement” but academics and extra-curricular activities are also considered. Bruder and Zunino were each named SEC Player of the Year in 2011 and led their teams to the 2011 NCAA College World Series in their respective sports. It was the first time in school history that Florida had SEC Players of the Year in softball and baseball simultaneously.

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Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Conference Rd.

With the 2011 regular season in the books, four former Florida Gators participated in conference championship action during the third round of the 2011-12 NFL Playoffs on Sunday.

A total of six former Florida players were on the rosters of three of four teams that participated in this round, but one was inactive and another 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 Sunday.

Super Bowl XLVI will be the 10th consecutive NFL championship game to feature a former Florida player. No matter which team wins on Sunday, Feb. 5, the Gators will have a former player earn a Super Bowl ring for the third time in the last four seasons.

LB BRANDON SPIKES, New England Patriots^: Nine tackles [team-high] (two solo), interception (19-yard return), pass defense

(Thanks to ThrowTheFlagBlog for capping the above video for us.)

Continue Reading » Former Florida Gators in the NFL: Conference Rd.

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Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators accomplished on the field in 2011 (check out Saturday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of news off of it as well. From former players ending their accomplished careers to coaches and current players being part of some of the biggest news stories this year, Florida was spread all over the sports landscape in 2011. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 11 Off the Field Stories of the Year.

Like 2009 and 2010, Florida could not escape its share of unfortunate arrests and embarrassing incidents in 2011. It started simply enough early in February when a pair of Gators swimmers – Lily Ramirez and Daniela Victoria – were arrested and indefinitely suspended from the team after being accused of shoplifting from Nordstrom at the Orlando Mall. Next up was Florida senior outfielder Bryson Smith, who was picked up on March 13 for driving under the influence. Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested in Gainesville, FL three weeks later and charged with a trio of misdemeanors for failing to obey a police officer, possession of a drug (Viagra) without a valid prescription and resisting arrest without violence. The month of April was a tough one for the basketball team. Forwards Erik Murphy and Cody Larson were arrested in St. Augustine, FL and charged with third-degree felony burglary charges after allegedly breaking into a car, and team manager Josh Adel was also arrested for principal to burglary for allegedly serving as a lookout. Charges against the players were eventually reduced and each settled their respective case, while Adel had all charges against him dropped. Additionally, former Florida F Dan Wener was charged with a DUI even though he blew below the legal limit (0.08) on the Breathalyzer twice. The State Attorney’s Office eventually dropped his charges due to insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction.

Unfortunately the year of brushes with the law was just getting started for the Gators. It surfaced on April 24 via a news report that both linebacker Chris Martin and defensive end Kendric Johnson were cited with misdemeanors for possessing approximately two grams of marijuana each in their respective vehicles on separate occasions. Former Florida WR Reche Caldwell was arrested one month later for possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. Gators runner Andries Dumisane Hlaselo had the darkest arrest of the year, being picked up in June after being accused of rape and sexual assault. He was immediately dismissed from the team. The Florida football team had the remainder of the year’s arrests. Sophomore safety Matt Elam was cited for underage drinking for the second time in as many years in July, and an August report noted that freshman defensive back De’Ante Saunders was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana in May. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Dee Finely was arrested on Sept. 13 on a first-degree misdemeanor for driving a scooter with a suspended license as well as a third-degree felony for resisting arrest without violence, and freshman cornerback Marcus Roberson was served with a written arrest for underage drinking just one day later. Sophomore defensive tackle Dominique Easley had the last brush with the law of 2011 as he was accused of attacking a former Alabama player early in October but was cleared of the charges one month later. All-in-all, for every positive thing accomplished by the Gators in 2011, there always seemed to be something negative about the program just around the corner.

It would be difficult to recount everything that Gator Nation has gone through in 2011 without remembering those close to the University of Florida who left us for a better place or suffered through serious medical issues in the past year. Young and old, these Gators departed too soon or had plenty to deal with as the year went on. Jimmy Carnes (76), a former Gators track and field coach, passed away in March after losing a four-year battle with prostate cancer. Former linebacker/safety and three-time Super Bowl winner Godfrey Myles (42) suffered a massive heart attack in June and, while in the hospital on life support, had a stroke that took his life. Former punter and 12-year NFL veteran Don Chandler (76) also lost a long battle with cancer in August. Mike Heimerdinger (58), who was diagnosed with cancer early in the year, passed away in October. He was a former graduate assistant and wide receivers coach at Florida and won consecutive SEC titles with the team from 1984-85. Ending the year on a sad note, beloved Gainesville, FL businessman and former Gators long snapper Harold Monk III (42) died suddenly in December. OGGOA once again sends our deepest condolences to the families and friends of these men.

Florida freshman linebacker Neiron Ball was the first of three members of the Gators family to suffer serious health issues during the year. He was rushed to the hospital in February after a blood vessel in his brain ruptured as part of a congenital vascular condition. The doctors were able to stop the bleeding and Ball was released from the hospital four days later, but he was forced to miss the entire season for recovery purposes. In the middle of the year, Miami Heat guard/forward Mike Miller was lucky enough to have his wife give birth to a daughter named Jaylen. Unfortunately for the family, she was forced to spend two weeks in a pediatric intensive care unit after doctors found that she had five holes in her heart upon being born. The Millers eventually brought Jaylen home with them in a bit of a coincidence considering they actually donated $1 million to a pediatric intensive care unit at children’s hospital in his home town in 2007. Later that month, former Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome, which he is currently still recovering from and will continue to do so over the next few months.

Continue Reading » Top 11 for 2011: Off the Field Stories of the Year

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Pouncey named to second-straight Pro Bowl

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.

Photo Credit: Unknown

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Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

The Miami Dolphins will be hosting a special Gator Day celebration on Sunday to honor the 2008 national champion Florida Gators football team that won the 2009 BCS Championship 24-14 over the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 8, 2009 in Miami Gardens, FL. To commemorate the occasion, OGGOA sat down with Dolphins vice president Nat Moore, who had much to do with setting up this unique celebration.

Moore played for the Gators and head coach Doug Dickey from 1972-73 after transferring from a junior college. He played running back for two years and earned first-team All-Southeastern Conference as well as honorable mention All-American awards in 1972 after running 145 times for 845 yards with nine touchdowns and catching 25 passes for 351 yards and four more scores. A Gator Great who was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 1978, Moore earned his degree from Florida two years after entering the NFL.

After the 1973 season, Moore was selected by Miami with the No. 78 overall pick in the third round of the 1974 NFL Draft. He joined a Dolphins team coming off of back-to-back Super Bowl wins including the perfect season of 1972. Miami moved Moore to wide receiver, and he rewarded them with a Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro season in 1977, when he hauled in a league-high 12 touchdowns. Moore retired from football after spending his entire 13-year career with Miami. He broke nearly ever Dolphins receiving record at the time of his retirement, concluding his career with 510 catches for 7,547 yards and 74 touchdowns and earning him a spot in the team’s Honor Roll.

Since retiring from football, Moore has been involved in a variety of activities. He serves as a vice president with Miami, runs the Nat Moore Foundation and at one point was a broadcaster with Sun Sports for Gators football. He now does preseason broadcast work with the Dolphins in addition to his other duties.

OGOGA had the opportunity to speak to Moore for a half hour about his time at Florida, experience in the NFL, idea for a celebration of the Gators and opinions about some players he has come across throughout his career as a broadcaster.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What was it that led you to the University of Florida considering you were born in Tallahassee and went to high school in Miami?
NAT MOORE: “As a kid growing up in Miami, I felt like I really wanted to get away to focus on my studies and have less distractions. You go to Gainesville and basically you’re there for two things. One – to get a good and solid education, and two – a chance to develop your craft in whatever athletic endeavor it is. For me, it gave me a chance where all my friends would be new friends unless they were up there from Miami or Tallahassee. It was close enough that I wasn’t too far away from home if I got homesick. It was a university that my basketball coach in junior college had played baseball with Doug Dickey, so that was the entry into attending the University of Florida. It was always the right place for me, and they were an up-and-coming program in the SEC.”

Read the rest of our interview with Nat Moore…after the break!
Continue Reading » Nat Moore: “I’m a Gator…that’s my No. 1 love.”

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Youngblood: “He doesn’t know how crazy I am.”

With last Saturday being the two-year anniversary of ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive and considering he released a brand new book the very same day, former Florida Gators defensive lineman Jack Youngblood sat down with us recently for an exclusive and extensive hour-long interview about his life and career.

Click here to read an OGGOA exclusive excerpt from Because It Was Sunday: The Legend of Jack Youngblood while learning more about the book.

The first University of Florida student-athlete to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Youngblood is also a member of Florida’s Ring of Honor, the College Football Hall of Fame and the UF Athletic Hall of Fame. He has as accomplished of a career as any player who has put on the orange and blue of the Gators after being named first-team All-SEC and All-America in 1970 and also being selected as the No. 20 overall pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft.

Youngblood went on to be named to seven Pro Bowls and be selected as a first-team All-Pro five times while also winning NFC Defensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons (1975-76) and the Los Angeles RamsMost Value Player award three times (1975-76, 1979). He played in five NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl and had his No. 85 retired by St. Louis prior to being inducted into the team’s Ring of Fame in 2001.

Since retiring for the game of football, Youngblood has done some acting work, served as an analyst with numerous media outlets, and co-hosted Wal-Mart’s Great Outdoors program, which used to air on ESPN on Saturday mornings. He also wrote a biography, has held a number of football administration jobs and continues to work to this day.

OGGOA’s three-part interview with Youngblood covers his college days and professional career while also highlighting some interesting stories and moments in his life. This is part two of that interview. Part three will be published next week.

Part I – Youngblood: A career of life-changing moments

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You succeeded very quickly when you started in the NFL, just like you did in college. In back-to-back seasons you won the NFC Defensive Player of the Year award, but a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers – Mel Blount and Jack Lambert – took the overall NFL award. I was always curious if you felt a little slighted not getting that honor?
JACK YOUNGBLOOD: “I never looked at those awards as if they were something that you should covet. It’s wonderful to be acknowledged, but that’s not why you played. You played to win ballgames during the regular season and then in the postseason. You’re paid to be the best, was my perspective. My job was to be the best defensive end in the National Football League. That’s what I was paid to do, and that’s what I expected myself to do. All of the trophies, all of the plaques, all of the dinners, all of the acknowledgements were just icing on the cake. Defensive linemen don’t get Players of the Year. Linebackers and defensive backs do because they’re intercepting balls, going back for touchdowns, having 400 tackles in a year, that type of stuff. That’s linebacker stuff. That’s not the working man. [Laughing]”

AS: Let’s talk about your time with the L.A. Rams when, let’s face it, the team had a crazy amount of success. From 1973-79 you won seven-straight NFC West titles, five NFC Championship games and played in a Super Bowl. What was it like to be part of such a dominant organization for such a long period of time?
JY: “There’s no question that it was rewarding to be an integral part of the nucleus of a good franchise. It was a really good football team. It was rewarding and at the same time, because we had got our nose busted on us four times with the door slamming in our face in the championship game. That was humiliating. It was a great experience. I loved my players. We truly had – and this wasn’t just rhetoric – we had a family. We had 12 or 15 guys that, if not once or twice a week we would get 12-15 of the guys together and we’d eat someplace, bring the wives and bring the kids. We had that kind of a close relationship. To be good, to be really good, I believe you have to have trust in your fellow players. That was a big thing that I think we grew to and that became one of the factors integral to how we played as well as we did in the 1970s, especially on defense.”

Read the rest of part one of our interview with Jack Youngblood…after the break!
Continue Reading » Youngblood: “He doesn’t know how crazy I am.”

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