In just 98 days the Florida Gators will kick off a new season of football. As a lifetime Gators fan I have trouble describing the sensation of watching the team take the field, hearing the roar of 90,000 fans in The Swamp, and that familiar voice saying, “Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere come the Gators!”
I was born into a family of season ticket holders, and had the privilege of sitting on the 20 yard line until I moved to Texas for college. I grew up at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during the Spurrier era, and in all my years, I only saw Florida lose in person once (it was to a team from Tallahassee, but we won’t talk about that).
I was there when the 96 National Championship was added to all the SEC Championships. I cheered on Shane Matthews, Jesse Palmer, and Danny Wuerffel as quarterbacks. I rooted for Fred Taylor, Ericht Rhett, and Rod Gillespie in the backfield, and watched Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard, Willie and Jack Jackson, and “Quezzy” Green catch passes.
My final game as a season ticket holder was during Ron Zook’s brief stint in Gainesville, and the Auburn Tigers were a chip-shot field goal away from beating us. Bobby McCray slammed through the line and blocked the kick, forcing overtime. That was the loudest I have ever heard Florida Field. Moments later, Rex Grossman tossed a game-winning touchdown.
I have been able to return to The Swamp on two more occasions. The first was to see Tim Tebow in the opening game of 07, which was the day the ’06 Championship was unveiled, and the day that kicked off Tebow’s Heisman-winning season.
The other game was in 2012 when Florida and South Carolina were both in the top 5 in the BCS, and the Gators routed the Cocks on their way to a Sugar Bowl appearance.
With all these memories in mind, I look forward to this new season with a sense of anticipation like I have not had in some time. After a disappointing season last year there is nowhere to go but up, and the new uptempo offense seems to have Gators fans excited.
98 days. 98 days until The Swamp comes back to life, and Gators fans get one more year of memories to be made.