12 Gator Bites for Tuesday, January 21

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» The three Florida Gators participating in the 2014 Senior Bowl arrived over the weekend and got measured on Monday. Guard Jon Halapio checked in at 6’3-1/2” and 320 pounds, wide receiver Solomon Patton was the smallest player measured at 5’8-1/2” and 179 pounds, and cornerback Jaylen Watkins was listed at 5’11-3/8” and 194 pounds. Watkins will be updating OnlyGators.com on his status this Wednesday as he and his teammates prepare for the game on Saturday at 4 p.m. on NFL Network.

» Patton, a native of Mobile, AL, was not initially invited to the all-star game played in his hometown but rather received the opportunity to participate in the Senior Bowl last Tuesday after winning an MVP award at the inaugural Medal of Honor Bowl. He is not the only one excited. “It’s going to be great,” his father Solomon Patton, Sr., told AL.com. “It’s something we’ve dreamed about since he started playing football. It’s always been a dream of ours and his for him to make it back here [to play].” Patton also spoke about proving to scouts and team executives that he can play despite his relatively diminutive stature. “I might be small, but I can make big-time plays regardless of my size,” he said. “I’m just going to go in relaxed and od what I’ve been doing all year.”

» Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on Monday said wide receiver Percy Harvin should be cleared to return to practice by Wednesday and ultimately compete in Super Bowl XLVIII. Harvin was held out of Sunday’s NFC Championship game due to lingering symptoms from a concussion he suffered two weekends ago. He has only played 39 total snaps in two games this season.

Check out NINE more Gators news bites…after the break!

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Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2013 (see the Not Top 13 for 2013), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to earning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2013. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 13 for 2013.

13 » A NEW TRADITION
Florida’s football program did not get much right in 2013, but instituting a new pre-game tradition – a “celebrity” serving as Mr. Two Bits in honor of the original, George Edmondson – was absolutely a bright spot. The Gators also picked the perfect person to kick off the new tradition with former running back Errict Rhett performing as if he was made for the role. Others had trouble stepping up to the high benchmark set by Rhett, but the honorary Mr. Two Bits was nevertheless a great sight for fans all season long…even if the team was not. OnlyGators.com sat down with Rhett after his appearance for an extensive interview about the experience and his career.

12 » 15-INNING MARATHON
In the fourth-longest game ever played at the Women’s College Series (longest since 1992), Florida softball prevailed 9-8 over Nebraska in a night game that lasted 15 innings and more than five hours, spanning into the early morning of the next day. The Gators lost two separate leads in the contest before rallying to score two runs in the top of the 15th; UF conceded a run in the latter half of the inning but held on for the victory. Unfortunately for Florida, it had to suit up just hours later for an elimination game against Texas at 1 p.m., one it lost 3-0. The Gators were ranked No. 2 entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament but fell short of a title.

11 » ALL HE WANTED WAS A CHANCE


Redshirt junior quarterback Tyler Murphy waited patiently as he got overlooked time and time again, most recently by head coach Will Muschamp and his offensive coordinators in favor of younger players with higher ratings coming out of high school. When junior QB Jeff Driskel went down with a fractured fibula against Tennessee, Murphy finally got his shot and made the most of it. Over a three-game stretch including games on Sept. 21, Sept. 28 (at Kentucky) and Oct. 5 (vs. Arkansas), Murphy completed 39-of-54 passes (72.2 percent) for 530 yards with five touchdowns and just one interception. (He also gained 135 yards and picked up two more scores with his legs.) Unfortunately for him, Murphy injured his shoulder on Oct. 12 against LSU and was simply not the same player as he took the field in more pain than he or the coaching staff decided to admit publicly. Murphy missed the final three games of the season due to that injury and ultimately transferred, feeling Muschamp would not give him a fair chance to win the starting job in 2014.

Continue Reading » Top 13 for 2013: Florida’s best moments of the year

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FOUR BITS: Beal, Tebow, Tymrak, Easley

1 » Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal scored a career-high 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting on Sunday night during a 106-105 overtime loss to Oklahoma City. Beal played a team-high 42 minutes in the contest, draining 6-of-8 threes and grabbing six rebounds to boot. Beal has scored 63 points in his last two games after posting 29 against Brooklyn on Friday including two while posterizing Paul Pierce.

2 » It was reported over the weekend by SportsBusiness Journal that former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had dumped William Morris Agency, which was handling his entertainment industry interests, and turned over all of his representation responsibilities to Creative Arts Agency. He was already being represented by CAA’s Jimmy Sexton for his football playing career but has now also hired CAA’s broadcast agent Nick Khan, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport. Khan has a long client list and represents a number of well-known ESPN personalities. Tebow is reportedly interested in contributing to college football broadcasts, likely as an in-studio analyst. ESPN, which has been in the Tebow business for years, sounds like the obvious choice, especially considering it will be running the SEC Network, which launches in August 2014.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, Wambach, Beal, Johnson

1 » A rash of quarterback injuries has shaken the NFL over the first half of the season, and there are also a number of floundering teams in serious need of a boost, but former Florida Gators signal caller Tim Tebow nevertheless remains a free agent. Sunday night, NFL.com‘s Mike Silver reported that the St. Louis Rams had “at least internally discussed the possibility of signing” Tebow though nothing was imminent and it was unlikely to happen. This report came after starting QB Sam Bradford was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a knee injury (he will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL). CBSSports.com‘s Jason LaCanfora later tweeted that the Rams have “no desire” to bring in Tebow and that head coach Jeff Fisher “would not consider it.” Instead, St. Louis will go with Kellen Clemens, a career 51.8 percent passer with seven passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions over eight seasons (including 12 starts). The biggest news story involving Tebow over the last few weeks included some shirtless pictures taken while he was on vacation with his family in Hawaii.

As Tebow hopes to have a future in football, it may be another sport entirely where he can make the greatest impact. According to TheMMQB.com, USA Rugby is extremely interested in having Tebow join the program and compete on behalf of the United States in the Olympics (assuming he picks up the sport well). Writer Jenny Vrentas crunches some numbers, with some help from a company named Atlantic Standard, and notes that Tebow’s athleticism is simply off the charts, which makes him a player the rugby community would covet.

Check out three more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!

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Review – SEC Storied: Abby Head On

Abby Head On, the eighth SEC Storied documentary aired by ESPNU and first focused solely on a former Florida Gators student-athlete, will debut on Wednesday at 8 p.m. OGGOA was afforded the opportunity to watch an advanced copy of the documentary, which takes a close look at the rise of soccer striker Abby Wambach.

Toughness, grittiness and attitude are just a few of Wambach’s hallmark characteristics, ones she developed as a child, enhanced as a standout at Florida and fully realized as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team. The decision by co-directors Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby to choose former Gators defensive end Jack Youngblood to narrate parts of the documentary was not only a nice touch for Florida and SEC fans but also a deft choice as it set the tone for the feature early.

Abby Head On begins with a look at Wambach’s game-winning goal in the 2004 Athens Olympics (and her boisterous personality) but quickly moves on to her upbringing in Rochester, NY and how toughness, intensity and competitiveness were all instilled in her at a young age. Having to compete with a bunch of brothers for her parents’ attention made participating in sports attractive from the get go.

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FOUR BITS: Henry, Whitson, Harvin, Wambach

1 » The Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday announced that former Florida Gators punter Chas Henry has received a one-year contract. Henry, signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles before the 2011 season, remained the team’s starter heading into 2012 but was replaced at the start of the season with Mat McBriar. He tried out with other teams throughout the year but was not able to find a new job when all was said and done. In Tampa Bay, Henry will start out as training camp competition for incumbent starter Michael Koenen, who is signed through 2016. Henry averaged 44.0 yards per punt during his time with the Eagles; Koenen averaged 45.3 yards per punt during the 2012 season and also handles the Bucs’ kickoff duties.

2 » Florida junior right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson, expected to enter the 2013 season as the team’s No. 2 starter, will be sidelined indefinitely with shoulder fatigue, the school announced. Whitson, who has missed significant time with multiple injuries during his sophomore season with the Gators, is a power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and devastating slider. He went 8-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 2011 but pitched just 33.1 innings in 2012 and went 4-0 with a 3.51 ERA. His shoulder has long been an issue, however, and Baseball America reported on Wednesday that he met with Dr. James Andrews for a consultation. As of press time, the results of that meeting are unknown. Whitson originally joined Florida rather than signing a $2.1 million offer from the San Diego Padres, which selected him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. “We knew there was a possibility he might not pitch the first two weekends,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “We were kind of prepared for this, so it hasn’t really changed a whole lot in regards to this weekend.”

3 » As the 2013 NFL league season gets closer to starting (March 12), reports about wide receiver Percy Harvin and the Minnesota Vikings continue to swirl. Now that it is out in the open that Minnesota is almost definitely trading Harvin before the season begins, reports are noting Harvin is looking for a new contract similar to what top-tier wideouts Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald have received (eight years, $130-150 million with $50-60 million guaranteed) and will holdout from minicamp and training camp if he does not receive one. And while the Vikings are looking to trade Harvin due to a combination of cost and questionable off-the-field demeanor, running back Adrian Peterson – who won the league’s most valuable player award this past season – does not want the only other playmaker on his team going anywhere. “To be honest with you, I don’t know if we will or not. But me, individually, and giving you my opinion, I wouldn’t trade him for nothing,” he said on KFAN-FM in Minneapolis, MN. Harvin was garnering MVP consideration during the first half of the season and still led Minnesota in receptions (62) and receiving yards (677) despite playing just nine games (leaving the last one early after injuring his ankle).

4 » U.S. Women’s National Team captain and former Gators striker Abby Wambach played in her 200th international match on Wednesday, scoring a goal at 51’ and helping lead the United States past Scotland 3-1. Now the eighth American to play at least 200 games as a member of the USWNT, Wambach is also inching closer to former teammate Mia Hamm’s world-record international goals mark. Her shot into the net on Wednesday marked the 153rd of her career (63rd on a header), moving her within five goals of Hamm’s record of 158.

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Wambach, Martin, Lochte

1 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin on Saturday noted via his Twitter account that he would be having “minor surgery.” Most assumed the surgery Harvin mentioned was for his injured ankle, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season. However, Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN radio reported Sunday that Harvin actually went in for an emergency appendectomy. He is expected to be back to normal health in 2-3 weeks and will spend the entire offseason rehabbing his ankle and trying to get back on the field in the summer.

2 » The U.S. Women’s National Team concluded its 2012 campaign and its Fan Tribute tour across the United States with a 4-1 win over China in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday night. Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach scored twice in the friendly, increasing her international goal total to 152 and pulling within six of Mia Hamm, who holds the record with 158 career international goals. Florida head soccer coach Becky Burleigh was in attendance at the match, cheering on Wambach and former Gators defender Heather Mitts, who plans to retire. USA outscored China 10-1 in the three-game friendly series and concluded the 2012 campaign with a 28-1-3 record. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals (second-most in her career) and was the only member of the USWNT to start and play in all 32 games.

3 » Former Florida defensive end Chris Martin, who transferred in from USC but only spent his redshirt season at UF before forcibly transferring again to another school, spent the 2011 season playing for City College of San Francisco, the fourth institution he has attended since the beginning of his college career. The former five-star recruit, now a JUCO transfer, committed to the Kansas Jayhawks and head coach Charlie Weis on Saturday, according to JayhawkSlant.com ($). Martin is familiar with Weis from his days with the Gators and also has a relationship with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple, a former Florida assistant who Weis hired when he left following the 2011 season.

4 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, who set a pair of world record times at the 2012 FINA World Swimming Championships this past week, also concluded the event with six gold medals and eight total medals, setting a record at a short-course championship event. Lochte took gold and set world records in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Individual Medley and finished first as part of four-man American teams in the 4×100 Meter Freestyle, 4×200 Meter Freestyle and 4×100 Meter Medley Relays. He also captured silver in the 200 Meter Backstroke and bronze in the 100 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was fully or partially responsible for eight of the 27 medals won by the United States at the event. Fellow former Gators swimmer Conor Dwyer joined Lochte with a gold in the 4x200M Freestyle Relay and picked up an individual bronze in the 200M Freestyle. Jemma Lowe, swimming for Great Britain, won a pair of bronze medals in the 100 Meter and 200 Meter Butterfly. Lochte was the only swimmer to set a world record at the event.

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Abby Wambach named AP Athlete of the Year

Former Florida Gators striker Abby Wambach, who captained and led the U.S. Women’s National Team to exhilarating victories and a second-place finish in the 2011 Women’s World Cup over the summer in Germany, has been named the 2011 Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press.

Wambach dominated the balloting, receiving 65 of 214 first-place votes, and became the first individual soccer player in the country’s history to win the award.

She scored four goals for the United States in the World Cup, leading the Americans to the final match where they eventually lost to Japan on penalty kicks. Wambach received the Silver Ball and Bronze Boot awards by FIFA for her efforts during the event.

In addition to her soccer awards, she was also named Sportswoman of the Year by the Women’s Sports Foundation in October and was announced in September as one of eight former letter winners who will be inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as part of the 2012 class. She was also a late entry and eventual winner of the ESPY award for Best Play in July.

Wambach’s heroic efforts over the summer included a game-tying goal two minutes into injury time during extra time against Brazil in the quarterfinals, what became a game-winning goal against France in the semifinals, and a near game-winning goal 14 minutes into extra time against Japan in the finals.

Photo Credit: Martin Meissner/Associated Press

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