When I read today’s Daily Prompt, I immediately thought of the 2006 BCS National Championship Game, where my Florida Gators took on the Ohio State Buckeyes, because it was that national championship that started it all.
Despite the fact that I was only six years old, I grasped what an incredible accomplishment it was just to reach the game. I can still picture the Ohio State player running down the field to score on the very first play of the game; I can still hear my dad tell me, “This is what we’ll get if we win tonight” as he showed me a picture of the crystal trophy. My parents made me go to bed at halftime, but the first thing I asked when I woke up the next morning was, “Daddy, did we win last night?”
I never could have imagined that, ten years later, I would get to sit down and have a conversation with Urban Meyer about that game. I never could have imagined that I would have the blessing of getting to know not only Coach Meyer, but then-freshman quarterback Tim Tebow. And I never could have imagined how much I would grow to love the University of Florida and college football.
As I got older, my love of UF and Florida football only grew. Saturday afternoons quickly became my favorite part of the week, because I would get to watch and cheer on my beloved Florida Gators. The team’s successes became a source of encouragement for me as I overcame the daily challenges of my cerebral palsy, because I knew that to overcome it, I would have to put in the same amount of work as the players I watched every weekend did. Whenever I got frustrated or discouraged, my dad would always remind me of the work the team puts in, and of the standards they are held to. Tim Tebow was my inspiration, and it was with his perseverance and the team’s dedication in mind that I got through weekly physical therapy, daily stretching, and challenges that CP brings.
I was in sixth grade when I went to my first game in The Swamp. I’ll never forget that day. During the Gator Walk that morning, both players and coaches said hello and gave me high fives, and I even got to take a picture with one of our offensive linemen. An already-amazing day was made even more so when we went into the Swamp. The atmosphere was electric; I loved the sound of 96,000 people singing the fight songs together and chanting “Orange!” “Blue!” It was incredible, and it made my already-intense love of the University of Florida grow even stronger.
Now, all these years later, not much has changed. I still live for fall Saturday afternoons when I get to watch my beloved Florida Gators play; I still lean on the team’s dedication and hard work for encouragement as I continue overcoming my cerebral palsy. Tim Tebow is still my inspiration, and I still love the sound of 96,000 people in the Swamp singing fight songs together and chanting “Orange!” “Blue!” I still have an intense love for the University of Florida, and that love has led me to friendships I will forever cherish and memories I will forever hold onto. That love has opened doors and created incredible experiences, and it’s a love that will never fade.