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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QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

When most college football fans think about the Florida Gators 1996 season, two names in particular come to mind: head coach Steve Spurrier and starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Winner of seven individual awards in 1996 including the Heisman Trophy (and another Davey O’Brien Award in 1995), Wuerffel led the Gators to their first National Championship in his final effort after a four-year career in which he threw for an astounding 10,875 yards and 114 touchdowns.

A first-team All-America selection in 1995 and 1996, many of Wuerffel’s numbers remain the best in Southeastern Conference history and the second-best in national history. In 1995, his efficiency of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record, and in his Heisman year of 1996, his 3,625 yards (SEC record), 39 TDs (led nation, SEC record) and efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or more in back-to-back years. Wuerffel led the Gators in passing in each of his four seasons (1993-96) and still holds Florida records for most career passing touchdowns and most passing touchdowns in a season (in which he also holds second place). In fact, one out of every 9.74 passes Wuerffel threw in his career would be scored for a touchdown.

Enshrined in the team’s Ring of Honor in 2006 and set to be immortalized in a statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2010, Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries, which works to revitalize impoverished neighborhoods through spiritual and community development.

OGGOA spoke to Wuerffel on Tuesday and, even though our interview was feared lost by a technical difficulty, it was recovered at the end of the day. How lucky are we?

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Coming out of Fort Walton Beach, was attending the University of Florida an easy choice for you – something you always knew you wanted to do?
DANNY WUERFFEL: “Actually, we were living close to Florida State and my sister was attending Florida State. By default, I was more of a Seminole fan in high school. I took three visits – one to Alabama, one to Florida State and one to Florida. At the end of the day, the two things that drew me to Florida were, firstly, the quality of the education with so many different directions – I wasn’t centered or decided on a major and Florida just had so many highly respected colleges and majors to choose from – I was really impressed with the school, and then secondly, the opportunity to play for coach [Steve] Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

AS: When deciding on Florida, did you know your high school coach wanted to eventually go back to the Gators, or did that happen afterward?
DW: “Coach [Jimmy Ray Stephens] – he played at Florida and had coached at Florida and he was always hoping to get back there – I think that was one of his goals. It was a year or so after I got signed, a year or so after that, coach Spurrier gave him the opportunity to come.”

AS: You played four years at Florida – which is not something a lot of quarterbacks really get the chance to do – but obviously broke out in your final two seasons in 1995 and 1996. Was there a particular switch that turned on for you, was it a measure of the talent around you – what was the difference?
DW: “Practically what happened – both my freshman and sophomore year I was splitting time with Terry Dean – so in terms of snaps and reps, [I] didn’t get as much. For both the 1995 and 1996 team[s], there were some really, really dynamic players and folks that came along and we had two really good teams those two years. And it just happened those were the two years I was in the driver’s seat. When you’re in the right place at the right time with the right coaches and the right players, a lot of cool things can happen, and those were definitely some good years.”

Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Danny Wuerffell…after the break!
Continue Reading » QB Danny Wuerffel: “The opportunity to play for coach Spurrier – too much to pass up.”

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FOUR BITS: Gymnastics wins SEC Championship

1 » No. 4 Florida Gators gymnastics (15-2, 5-1 SEC) took home the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championship Saturday at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL. The program’s seventh conference title and first since 2007, it came on a slight 197.05-196.875 victory over the No. 1-ranked and defending SEC champion Alabama Crimson Tide. “There was never a moment in mind I doubted us,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It is a huge sense of accomplishment. Look at what makes up our routines. The majority of our routines were done by freshman who have never taken part in an SEC Championship. They don’t even know what it’s like. For them to come up here and compete the way they did, with the guidance of our upper classmen, gives them a huge sense of accomplishment. Look what we can do and what our future holds. It’s really exciting for them.” Next up? The 2010 NCAA Championship.

2 » While gymnastics was busy winning a title, No. 2/5 Gators baseball (17-5, 3-2 SEC) dropped two straight games to the No. 17/19 Ole Miss Rebels (19-5, 4-1 SEC). Ole Miss squeaked by Florida in the first game, taking a 3-2 win after freshman catcher Austin Maddox struck out looking with the bases loaded in the top of the ninth. Rebels’ starter Drew Pomeranz (4-0) only gave up a run over 7.1 innings with nine strikeouts, out-dueling Gators’ sophomore pitcher Alex Panteliodis (5-1), who also pitched 7.1 innings but gave up three earned runs combined in the first two innings. In the second game, Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, but gave up nine unanswered runs to fall behind by seven through three innings. They would eventually fall 15-3 with freshman starter Hudson Randal (2-1) giving up five earned runs on six hits in an inning’s work. The Gators hope to salvage the weekend road series with a win in the finale Saturday before facing Florida State in Jacksonville on Tuesday.

3 » Former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s “The Promise” speech, and Gators football itself, has inspired 7th grade students at a Harlem public school to dub their classroom “Gator Nation” and work to achieve their dreams. (h/t “mudlizard”)

4 » Trying to match their female counterparts with an NCAA Championship, the men’s swimming and diving team is currently in fourth entering the final day of the 2010 NCAA Championship meet. Junior Conor Dwyer, who became the first NCAA men’s swimmer since 2001 to win both the 200 and 500 freestyle races in the same meet, is leading the team in its efforts. OGGOA will update you on the team’s finish after action concludes.

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Gators football honored on SI All-Decade lists

Sports Illustrated followed up its college basketball All-Decade lists published on Wednesday with a number of college football All-Decade lists Thursday, and the Florida Gators earned their way toward a few notable distinctions. In the main article, where SI went over the highlights and lowlights of the decade, the Gators took home three of the top honors: Player of the Decade, Best Coach and Signature Play.

PLAYER OF THE DECADE: Tim Tebow, Florida
A star from the day he set foot on campus, Tebow will graduate with two SEC championships, two BCS titles and a Heisman Trophy. He is 34-6 as a starter and set SEC career records for total yards (11,699), rushing touchdowns (56), total touchdowns (141) and rushing yards by a quarterback (2,899). His impact, though, extended beyond the box score. “I don’t think I have ever seen a better leader,” said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

BEST COACH: Urban Meyer, Bowling Green/Utah/Florida
Meyer, who became a head coach in 2001, turned around three programs this decade thanks to a hypercompetitive personality and relentless zeal for recruiting. He leads all active coaches with an .841 winning percentage (minimum five years) and is the only coach to win two BCS championships. Bowling Green, 2-9 the year before his arrival, went 17-6 in Meyer’s two seasons. Utah went 22-2 under his watch. Florida has gone 56-10 in his five seasons.

SIGNATURE PLAY: The Tim Tebow “jump pass”
Florida coaches Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen first broke out their throwback play in a 2006 game against LSU. Facing second-and-goal at the one, Tebow faked like he was running for the end zone, stopped, jumped into the air, double-clutched like a basketball player, then lobbed a touchdown pass to Tate Casey. Most memorably, Tebow used the play to throw a game-sealing TD to David Nelson in the 2008 BCS Championship Game against Oklahoma — this time on a perfect spiral with no hesitation.

Though Florida is well-represented on that list, the recognition did not stop. Tebow’s speech following the Gators’ loss to the Ole Miss Rebels on Sept. 27, 2008, named “The Promise,” was No. 5 on SI’s 10 signature moments of the decade. “Following an inexplicable 31-30 home loss to Ole Miss, Tebow finished his usual question-and-answer session, but the 2007 Heisman Trophy winner wasn’t done talking,” Andy Staples writes. “Tebow honored his pledge. The Gators won their next 10 games, outscoring opponents 469-131. Florida rolled to the BCS title, and after the season, the school memorialized Tebow’s promise by inscribing it on a plaque that stands outside Florida Field.”

Tebow was also named as the starting quarterback for SI’s All-Decade Team. “A star from the day he set foot on campus, Tebow will graduate with two SEC championships, two BCS titles and a Heisman Trophy,” writes Stewart Mandel. “He is 34-6 as a starter and set SEC career records for total yards (11,699), rushing touchdowns (56), total touchdowns (141) and rushing yards by a quarterback (2,899). His impact, though, extended beyond the box score. ‘I don’t think I have ever seen a better leader,’ said Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.”

Mandel followed that up by naming Meyer as the All-Decade Team’s head coach. “Meyer, who became a head coach in 2001, turned around three programs this decade thanks to a hypercompetitive personality and relentless zeal for recruiting. He leads all active coaches with an .841 winning percentage (minimum five years) and is the only coach to win two BCS championships. Bowling Green, 2-9 the year before his arrival, went 17-6 in Meyer’s two seasons. Utah went 22-2 under his watch. Florida has gone 56-10 in his five seasons.”

SI is not done either. Tebow’s Heisman Trophy-worthy performance against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Nov. 10, 2007, earned him one of the decade’s most memorable college football performances. “Heisman Trophy voters had almost come around to the idea of giving the award to a sophomore when the Gators traveled to Columbia. In case anyone was still on the fence, Tebow erased all doubt, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for five more in a 51-31 win. “That was a Heisman performance tonight,” Florida coach Urban Meyer said. “In fact, it was one of the best performances by a football player that I have ever seen.”"

It was not all sunny for Florida on these lists. The Gators were the No. 8 entry on lists for the Top 10 College Football Games of the 2000s and Top 10 College Football Upsets of the 2000s for losses to the LSU Tigers (24-28 in 2007) and the Tennessee Volunteers (32-34 in 2001), respectively.

Referring back to the initial list, Mandel tabbed the Southeastern Conference the decade’s Best Conference and the spread-option as the Best Innovation of the decade.

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