Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

Usually we have to convince our interview subjects to sit down and talk with us for a half hour. When it came to former Florida Gators now Buffalo Bills wide receiver David Nelson, he had nothing but time while in the middle of a 22-hour drive from Buffalo, NY, to Dallas, TX, and in desperate need of some entertainment.

Catching up with him 14 hours into his trip somewhere in Memphis, TN, OGGOA spoke with Nelson about everything from his family growing up to what he thinks about new Gators head coach Will Muschamp and the future of quarterback John Brantley. He was honest and candid, as expected, and gave us a good look into the journey from high school star to solid college contributor to NFL undrafted free agent.

Nelson hauled in 46 receptions for 630 yards and seven touchdowns during his Florida career. As a rookie with Buffalo in 2010, he matched half that total with 31 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns (in consecutive games).

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: You’re one of eight children…where do you fall age-wise and what was it like growing up with so many siblings?
DAVID NELSON: “I’m actually the oldest of eight. Growing up there was only three of us – me and two of my younger brothers. My mom and dad were together and it was just us three. We were always real close, always competed and always playing sports and video games and trying to beat each other. We would fight and argue like brothers do, but looking back I cherish those times with my brothers more than anything. I always had a friend and brother to play with, always a partner to go out and do stuff with. It wasn’t until my mom and dad got divorced and both of them got remarried and had extra kids. My mom had three extra kids and my dad had two extra kids. My youngest sister right now is like three years old.”

AS: Christmas and Thanksgiving must be interesting then…
DN: “It is. It is. It’s a lot of fun though. It keeps it interesting and it keeps it fun.”

AS: What was it about Florida that made you decide to attend there over Notre Dame or staying in-state with Texas?
DN: “Growing up I never really knew much about Florida. I had seen them on TV every once in a while, when they were playing a bowl game or playing Florida State or something like that. I was never really a big fan growing up. I was from Big 12 country, so I grew up a huge Texas Longhorns fan, I watched all the Big 12 teams. When the recruiting process started, I didn’t hear anything from Florida. [Ron] Zook was there, didn’t hear anything from him or from his staff. Florida wasn’t even a consideration for me, never crossed my mind.

“When the whole issue with Tyrone Willingham getting fired [from Notre Dame]… I talked to Urban Meyer a little bit while he was at Utah, liked him a lot, but didn’t really feel comfortable going to Utah. When he accepted the job to go to Florida, he called me up and said, ‘Hey, I know you didn’t like it at Utah. What do you think about Florida?’ I was like, ‘I’ll research it, see what it looks like.’ The more I researched it, the more I learned about it, the more I liked it. I got a good feeling about it. [It happened] kind of late in the process, because it wasn’t until after the All-American game I started talking to him and took a visit up there. Got in town with my family, my family loved the community.

“I felt right with the coaching staff. I felt comfortable with the offense they were putting in. I knew that there was going to be something special that was going to happen there, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be one of the first recruiting classes to come in with them, because I knew Coach Meyer was going to be successful.”

AS: What were the first three years with the Gators like with you not getting much time on the field? Did you feel discouraged at all?
DN: “It was tough. It was real tough. An 18-19-20-year old kid coming in from high school, being heavily recruited, you automatically assume you are going to come in and you feel like you should be up for the Biletnikoff Award your first year on campus. When you’re a young kid, you buy into all the hype. You’re just really excited of what is going to happen. You come in and redshirt, the next year you sit on the bench, the year after that you sit on the bench again and you do get discouraged. You have all these people telling you how good you are, all these people from different angles saying you should be doing this…and you start to believe all the hype and all the cousins and the uncles calling you and you start to agree with them. You start to get these negative thoughts.

“The thought had crossed my mind of transferring; we actually pursued it a little bit. My dad and I sat down and looked at some options. Coach Meyer told me to just think about it and get back to him. The more I thought about it, the more we researched, I realized I came here for a reason – I came here to be a part of something special. At that moment we were on the cusp of being a great program. We had just won the National Championship in Arizona, and we were on the cusp of being great. At that moment, I knew I came here, I started something. I’m going to see it all the way through. I’m going to stick to my word and I’m going to ride this out, see where it goes and where it takes me.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with David Nelson…after the break!
Continue Reading » Bills WR David Nelson: “…it changed my career”

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Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

New Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp was a guest of Joe Rose on 560 WQAM in Miami, FL on Thursday and spent time with the former Miami Dolphins tight end discussing a number of topics that fans have been waiting to hear him discuss.

Like Urban Meyer before him, Muschamp was likely informed of the importance of having a presence in the South Florida media as the area is a recruiting hotbed and Rose’s show is arguably the most notable sports talk show in the mornings. He frequently talks about high school football and picked Muschamp’s brain on recruiting in the area.

“There’s a lot of young men that are going to sign out of each state. The key is evaluation and taking the right guy,” he said. “There’s a lot of really good football players in South Florida – tremendous. You take Palm [Beach], Broward and Dade County – there’s phenomenal football players. I’d say probably over 200 kids out of those three counties are going to sign Division I scholarships. [You have to] take the right guy that’s going to do a nice job academically for you, is going to represent your university in a first-class manner and play well on the football field.”

He was also asked to describe any notable differences between the recruiting process in the state of Texas and region of South Florida.

“It’s not different. We have an evaluation process that we’re going to go through with each young man. From on and off the field, different critical factors at each position that we look at that we decide that this is a type player we want to have at the University of Florida,” Muschamp said. “Just like I did when I was defensive coordinator at Texas when I ran the defensive [recruiting] board. We’ve got certain things that we’re looking for at each position. It’s about evaluation. It’s about taking the right guy. Not necessarily taking the best player at that position; he might not be the right fit for your football team or your university. That’s a huge part of what we do as coaches, is evaluating and taking the right players because there are a lot of good football players out there.

“I’m not worried about the guys that don’t sign at Florida, I’m worried about the ones that sign at Florida. We need to do a great job of developing those players. A lot of these young men that go other places, I’m going to see them once a year. So I’m not as worried about them as I am the ones we are going to have on our campus.”

Rose noted that Muschamp must be excited about having current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis as the biggest name on his staff, something the new head coach felt comfortable enough to open up about.
Continue Reading » Muschamp speaks on recruiting, Weis, Brantley

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Review – Tim Tebow: Everything in Between

It is not often we get the chance to do entertainment reviews, though we always appreciate the opportunity. So when I found out that ESPN had chosen to send me a rough cut of Tim Tebow: Everything in Between (debuting on the network on Jan. 6 at 7 p.m.), I was psyched to view it before the general public and review it for you.

With a four-minute trailer for the then-unsold film released in September by Fiction and XV Enterprises, I knew going into my viewing that the movie began after the conclusion of the 2010 Sugar Bowl and lasted until Tebow had his name called with the No. 25 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft just over three months later.

What I did not anticipate, however, was how comprehensive, expertly produced and well-edited the film would be. Two things I look for in any production – documentaries especially – are their ability to capture my attention and then whether or not they can hold that attention for their duration. Chase Heavener gives the viewer a brief yet broad behind-the-scenes look at the process Tebow went through to make the transition from Florida Gators legend to legitimate NFL prospect.

The viewer has the opportunity to see Tebow do everything from participating in interviews with Sports Illustrated and ESPN to conducting one of his own with his future agent Jimmy Sexton in a board room at the University of Florida.

“All this looks really good and is really fancy and is really nice. And ya’ll speak really well. But a lot of people around the country either believe in me or don’t believe in me. Or they say I can do this and I can’t do this,” Tebow says while fidgeting with a packet of information after listening to Sexton’s best sales pitch. “If you want to draft me then draft me. If you want to recruit me or you think I can be a quarterback, then I will be. If not, then don’t talk to me because I want somebody that wants me. And I want an agent that wants me and believes that I am going to be a quarterback and believes that I am going to be good at what I do. And why do you think I will be?”

From there the documentary takes you to D1 Sports Training in Nashville, TN, where Tebow threw so many passes while working on adjusting his mechanics that the gloves he was wearing were literally torn apart. The viewer observes as he struggles mightily at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl and is pummeled with criticism from analysts including ESPN’s Todd McShay, who is portrayed throughout the film as the antagonist for Tebow’s protagonist.

Both his physical and mental toughness are tested continuously throughout his journey. Tebow trucks on through an infection during the Senior Bowl even finding humor when a doctor feeding a tube down his nose asks if it has even been broken. “Who knows? Probably,” he quips. The level of exertion he puts in to each and every workout – he says – is not matched by any other college football player in the country.

Tebow shows the ability to block out detractors by ignoring McShay, who he hears doubting his ability to play at the next level on a blasting television in the background while he signs dozens of autographs and is surrounded by friends, family and business associates. He also defends his decision to participate in the controversial Focus on the Family Super Bowl commercial alongside his mother.

“Whoever you are, you can at least respect that I have an opinion on [abortion] and that I believe in something and that I’m going to stand up for what I believe,” he says. “That’s something that I’m taking pride in, that I’m standing up or what I believe in, and I’m showing conviction about something. For me, that’s big.”

With the hard work and dedication complete, Tebow’s largest looming decision – one that garnered much media attention – was where he would actually watch the draft that would decide his professional future. Contrary to popular belief that delaying his decision was a publicity stunt, Tebow’s indecision less than 48 hours before the draft is put at the forefront as Sexton pleads for him to make a choice.

Sexton himself proves to be a pivotal figure in Tebow’s tale, especially in the film’s final scenes. He tells the family exactly how he has projected the draft, is met with trepidation when things do not go as smooth as planned, and then is as excited as a school boy when his original prediction – “My bet is Denver from 22 to 30.” – comes to fruition.

Whether you are a fan of Tebow’s or someone who feels a strong sense of disdain for him, the Heisman Trophy winner and two-time National Champion ends up in the role of the underdog by the documentary’s end. Being exposed to Tebow’s character on a more personal basis puts the viewer in a position where one would have to be stone cold inside not to be genuinely happy for him when he receives a phone call from the 303 area code as the story nears its end.

As comprehensive as Heavener’s film is, its short run time of 50 minutes (due to television programming restrictions) does his work an injustice. With three months of film collected there is bound to be at least another 20 minutes of compelling material that unfortunately must have hit the cutting room floor. It is worth holding out hope that an extended edition will be available in some form at a later date.

Tim Tebow: Everything in Between is the first in a series of shows set to be a part of ESPN’s Year of the Quarterback programming initiative, a year-long examination into the lives and careers of quarterbacks from high school to the pros.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Cowart
 

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Muschamp hires two including OC Charlie Weis

One day after announcing that he retained three assistant coaches and hired two others, new Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp officially named Charlie Weis his offensive coordinator and Frank Verducci his offensive line/running game coordinator.

“Charlie was a perfect fit for what I was looking for in an offensive coordinator,” Muschamp said. “He has both college and pro experience and has been a play-caller in the NFL. He has four Super Bowl rings and his accomplishments and his ability to develop quarterbacks speak for themselves.’’

As expected, Weis will remain in the same role with his current employer, the Kansas City Chiefs, through their NFL Playoffs run. He will also coach quarterbacks at UF.

“We hope the Chiefs make a run to the Super Bowl – it would be great for the Chiefs and great for the Gators,’’ Muschamp added. “Everyone involved with the Kansas City organization has been first class about the transition.”

Weis was excited about his new job and chance to coach alongside his son. “To go to a program like Florida and be able to be around my kid at the same time … is almost a dream,” he said Sunday evening.

Verducci is a 28-year coaching veteran who spent 19 seasons in college (at Colorado State, Maryland, Northern Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa) before working eight of 10 years in the NFL (with Cincinnati, Dallas, Buffalo and Cleveland) prior to returning to the NCAA with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish under Weis in 2009.

“Frank will bring a sense of toughness and a physical style of play from our offensive line,” said Muschamp in a team-released statement. “It is important that the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator work closely together and always be on the same page. Charlie and Frank had that together at Notre Dame in 2009 and they will have a cohesive plan for the Gators.”

Florida also announced the hiring of a new assistant athletic director for football operations in George Wynn, a former teammate of Muschamp’s at Georgia who has held the same position for the last six years with the Texas Longhorns.

“George and I played college football together and I’ve known him for close to 20 years,” Muschamp said. “George has a unique combination of administrative, compliance and football experience. He will work hand in hand with our various departments to help run the day-to-day operations of the football department and has always had great relationships with the student-athletes.”

The Gators are still looking to hire a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach and have two coaching positions available (NCAA limit: nine assistants).

Position20102011
Offensive coordinatorSteve AddazioCharlie Weis
Quarterbacks coachScot LoefflerCharlie Weis
Defensive coordinatorTeryl AustinDan Quinn
Defensive line coachDan McCarney*Dan Quinn
Assistant: Bryant Young
Running backs coach
Recruiting coordinator
Stan DraytonBrian White
Offensive line coach
Running game coordinator
Steve AddazioFrank Verducci
Wide receivers coach
Recruiting coordinator
Zach AzzanniAubrey Hill
Tight ends coachBrian WhiteDerek Lewis
Linebackers coach
Special teams coordinator
D.J. DurkinD.J. Durkin
Defensive backs coachAustin/Chuck Heater*Travaris Robinson
Strength & conditioningMickey MarottiMickey Marotti

*McCarney was also assistant head coach; Heater held the role of co-defensive coordinator. Muschamp has not named an assistant (or associate) head coach as of press time.

Photo Credit: Bill Haber/Associated Press

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Charlie Weis to be named Gators OC Monday

Updated Jan. 2 at 6 p.m.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has accepted the same position with the Florida Gators, and the University of Florida will officially announce the agreement on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Weis, whose Chiefs currently boast the No. 9 offense in the NFL, was the Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach from 2005-09 and has four Super Bowl rings including three with the New England Patriots. He is a terrific play caller and showed recruiting chops during his time at Notre Dame.

Beginning his career as an offensive assistant with the New York Giants under head coach Bill Parcells, Weis was a position coach until 1997 when he was hired as the New York Jets offensive coordinator. He held that job with the Jets and later coached the Patriots offense until 2004 when he left for Notre Dame.

New Gators head coach Will Mushcamp, who said at his introductory press conference that he prefers to run a pro-style offense and wanted an offensive coordinator with professional experience, fulfills both of his requirements with Weis.

With Kansas City set to participate in the playoffs one year after a 4-12 season, Weis will stay on as long as necessary. Some reports have Weis earning near $1 million in his new position with UF, though that figure is unsubstantiated at this time.

Notorious for his somewhat rough personality, it was rumored that Weis had a falling out with Chiefs head coach Todd Haley. However statements from Haley on Sunday after Kansas City’s regular season finale tell another story.

“Charlie Weis is moving on. He’s going to go to the University of Florida as a coordinator. There was obviously a lot of speculation on that. Charlie and I, the Chiefs, we had a bunch of real productive conversations this weekend – really productive. This is a bitter sweet deal for me, as the head coach, because Charlie was someone I was obviously really excited to have in here.

“With that being said, Charlie is a family guy. He has a situation, a family situation, where he can go to Florida and be with his son, who is going to get into coaching. Without talking personally about Charlie, this is a great situation for Charlie. And I respect it 100 percent and we respect it 100 percent. Again, I was really excited to get Charlie here. Charlie’s been a big part of what we’ve done this year and he’s going to continue to be a big part of what we do this year.

“Charlie is a professional. He’s been through a similar situation back a few years ago where there was some potential distractions that could have been distractions that he, being a professional, did his job to the fullest and helped the team win a Super Bowl. I have the utmost confidence that that’s what will go on.”

Weis’s son will be attending Florida perhaps as soon as this spring and will likely work as a student assistant on the football team with hopes of eventually earning a coaching job.

Muschamp and athletic director Jeremy Foley were both attendance at the 2011 Outback Bowl on Saturday to watch Florida prevail 37-24 over Penn State.

The Sporting News initially reported the agreement between Weis and the Gators.

Photo Credit: Bill Haber/Associated Press

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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: Scouts, Lawrence, Johnson, Tebow

1 » When Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban decided to close off his team’s practices to NFL scouts, there was some outrage that he may have gone too far. The Tuscaloosa News qualified the action by stating that Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer had mandated the same thing. The only problem? He didn’t. Florida associate athletics director for communications Steve McClain pointed out Wednesday that the Gators have not changed their policy and scouts will still be allowed to attend during designated periods (usually during the regular season and select two-a-days). However, as noted before, Meyer has indeed closed practice to the media and fans in an effort to keep out questionable characters or “scumbags” as he so eloquently put it.

2 » On Aug. 5, Meyer announced that redshirt sophomore wide receiver T.J. Lawrence had requested and received a release from his University of Florida scholarship. Wednesday, Lawrence told The Lakeland Ledger that he has decided to transfer to the Florida A&M Rattlers. “It’s a big shocker because a lot of people wouldn’t expect Florida A&M University, but I’m going there to be a two-sport athlete,” Lawrence said. His main motivation for leaving UF was a lack of playing time.

3 » Interesting video from The Gainesville Sun of redshirt senior guard Carl Johnson interviewing freshman running back Mack Brown at Florida Media Day.

4 » Focus on the Family, the anti-abortion group that purchased a Super Bowl ad featuring former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow and his mother Pam Tebow, has decided to purchase statewide television advertisements during every Denver Broncos game for the upcoming season. Though the new ads will not feature or mention Tebow, the fact that the company is based in Colorado and already has the recognition of having previously worked with Tebow certainly served as a motivating factor in this decision.

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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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