Unfinished Business: Florida Gators Football's Graham Mertz Embraces the Challenge

Underdogs no more, Graham Mertz and the Florida Gators embrace reviving the football program.
Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) looks down field for a receiver.
Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) looks down field for a receiver. / Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY

In the face of skepticism surrounding the Florida Gators' ability to compete for an SEC title, quarterback Graham Mertz remains unwavering in his belief that the team can silence the doubters.

Coming off an 11-14 record over the past two seasons under head coach Billy Napier, including a five-game losing streak to close the 2023 campaign, the Gators are embracing the underdog role as fuel for their upcoming 2024 season.

"Nowadays everyone always likes to say prove the haters wrong. And obviously the theme for this team is proving each other right. We know what we've got to do, we all want to win, everyone in this building wants to win. For us, we know what people are saying, but we're here to prove each other right, we're here to scrap together and go win."

Graham Mertz on the Paul Finebaum Show

Mertz, one of 13 returning starters for Florida, cited "unfinished business" as his motivation for utilizing his final year of eligibility. The seasoned signal-caller also reiterated his faith in Napier's ability to lead and develop players, praising the head coach's unwavering attention to detail and urgency.

"From day one when I got here, it's been urgency, it's been attention to detail. There's not one detail that slips his mind, and he's been locked in 24-7. To me, that's one of the things being a leader on this team, you see that, you see the standard set, this is the right way to do it, and this is the urgency to have to do it, from the top down, starting with him. He sets the tone every day."

In his first year as the starting quarterback under Napier, Mertz excelled, passing for 2,903 yards with 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions while leading the SEC in completion percentage (72.9 percent).

Finebaum also inquired about the strength of Florida's schedule, which includes a season-opening clash against Miami on August 31 at The Swamp. The Gators will face 11 of their 12 opponents from Power Four conferences, with non-conference games against UCF and rival Florida State. The final five opponents – Georgia, Texas, LSU, Ole Miss, and FSU – all finished in the top 13 of the College Football Playoff rankings at the end of last season.

"This is why you come to the SEC, this is why you play at Florida, for these matchups. You want to play at the highest level against the greatest competition. We know what's ahead of us, we see it every day when we go out of the locker room, and that excites us."