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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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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Saints unexpectedly release DE Bobby McCray

Former Florida Gators defensive end Bobby McCray was released by the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Monday. McCray, who was the Saints’ third end but still started a quarter of the team’s games during his two-year run with New Orleans, made some impactful defensive plays as a starter during their playoff run last season.

Interestingly enough, the Saints acquired fellow former Gators defensive end Alex Brown via free agency in the offseason. Brown is expected to start for New Orleans on the left side even after McCray worked with the first team defense during mini camp over the last few weeks; his signing projected starting job most likely led to McCray’s dismissal.

According to Pro Football Talk, McCray was due a $1.25 million roster bonus in just over a week and was likely cut to avoid that payment. The team did not attempt to renegotiate and will also save $2 million on his 2010-11 base salary.

McCray, who made headlines for during the season for his vicious hits on Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner and Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre, was arrested during the season for allegedly driving under the influence. He complied 59 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three defended passes and a forced fumble in his two years in New Orleans.

OGGOA RELATED: San Diego cuts former Florida DT Ian Scott

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TWO BITS: Pouncey soaks it in, Ingram returns

1 » Former Florida Gators center Maurkice Pouncey is loving his new home with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Drafted by the six-time Super Bowl champions with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Pouncey is “just trying to establish” himself with the veterans. “This is a great experience and a great team,” Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “All of the guys take you in, none of that hazing kind of thing. It’s just, ‘Win championships.’ […] I’m sitting in here looking at all of the other guys that played in the Super Bowl and just trying to soak in what they’ve got and follow their lead.” He joins Florida alum and left tackle Max Starks on Pittsburgh’s offensive line. “He didn’t come in with any type of ego,” Starks said, praising Pouncey’s introduction. “That’s what you want to see, especially in an offensive lineman. You want a young guy to come in that wants to learn and wants to get better.”

2 » According to a live chat session with Philadelphia Inquirer beat writer Jeff McLane, former Gators tight end Cornelius Ingram participated in individual drills during the Philadelphia Eagles’ minicamp last weekend. Missing his rookie year after suffering a second injury to his anterior cruciate ligament (the first kept him out the 2008-09 Florida football season), Ingram lost out on a starting opportunity to Brent Celek but has a chance to be a back-up and earn time on the field should he be able to stay healthy. Reports are that his rehab has been going well, and Ingram is expected to make a full recovery. Wide receiver Riley Cooper, drafted in the fifth round by Philadelphia, joins Ingram on the Eagles this season.

Photo Credit: Tracy Wilcox/The Gainesville Sun

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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 “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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Broncos’ legendary QB Elway endorses Tebow

While fans and analysts argue over whether or not former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow can eventually become a starting quarterback in the NFL for the Denver Broncos, a local legend who Tebow is supposed to replace already has his back.

Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection who won two Super Bowl trophies and has his No. 7 retired in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame, endorsed the former Heisman Trophy winner to 9NEWS Tuesday morning while participating in the Colorado Golf Association Four-Ball Championship.

“I think we have a great competitor so that gives us hope,” Elway said of Tebow. “It’s gonna take a little bit of time, but I think he’ll battle his way in there and hopefully get in the thick of things quick. […] He’s got the potential, he won at the college ranks, and won the Heisman, so there is talent there, there’s a want there. I think we have a great competitor so that gives us hope.”

He also spoke with CBS4 in Denver about the same subject, explaining how similar Tebow’s arrival is to that of his’ over two decades ago.

“I think there’s a connection already with Tim Tebow and the way he’s acted, come in answered with the media, the type of person he is. He fits perfect into this community,” Elway said. “I think that’s why everyone is excited about him because they kind of feel like you know he’s the next son of Denver. That’s how I felt when I came in. […] When he did come in to town, he texted me. So I texted him back and said welcome to town and looking forward to meeting him.”

Elway was drafted No. 1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft and had a 16-year pro career.

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DE Alex Brown signs two-year deal with Saints

Free agent defensive end Alex Brown, who was looking for a new home after being cut outright by the Chicago Bears late last week, has signed a two-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, according to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter.

Brown visited with the Saints Tuesday and had a meeting scheduled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Thursday. Obviously the defending Super Bowl champions chose not to let him leave town, making him the team’s newest run-stopping starting left defensive end at $5.5 million over two years.

“My goal is to be the starting left end,” Brown told the Chicago Tribune. “My goal is to be the best defensive end in the league, regardless of which side I am playing. I won’t have to bulk up. I think I can play at 255 [pounds]. I think it’s more attitude than anything.”

Turning 31 in June, Brown had 47 tackles and six sacks last season for the Bears. Chicago cut him in order to get younger at the position and avoid paying him the $5 million he was due.

“I expected to make more visits, we had more lined up,” he said. “The house that we live in here [in Chicago], we walked into it and I told my wife, ‘I love this house. We don’t need to see anymore. This is the one I like.’ Taking that approach, I went to New Orleans and I liked it. Boom! If everything else is right, that’s where I wanted to go. My agent and [general manager] Mr. [Mickey] Loomis came to an agreement and here we go, we’re going to try to win it again.”

Brown is one of a few NFL players who celebrate with the Gator Chomp (see above).

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