Florida Gators · Sports

The Year in Florida Sports (So Far)

Moments ago, Florida’s baseball team advanced to the championship series of the College World Series with a win over TCU. I thought I’d take the moment to not only highlight the boys’ accomplishment, but the accomplishments of Florida sports so far this year. So far in 2017, Florida has:

  • Defeated Iowa in the Outback Bowl 30-3
  • Advanced to the Elite Eight in basketball
  • Captured our third straight regular season SEC title in softball
  • Been crowned SEC Champs in baseball
  • Won the national title in women’s tennis
  • Won the national championship in men’s track and field
  • Advanced to the championship series in the Women’s College World Series
  • Advanced to the championship series in the College World Series

In addition, here are a few staggering statistics, via Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin:

  • UF has won 38 national championships
  • We have won a national championship in each of the previous nine academic years
  • This year, 13 Gator sports teams finished ranked in the top ten in the country, with ten teams finishing ranked in the top five

As the saying goes, it’s always great to be a Florida Gator.

What has been your favorite moment in sports so far this year? No, it doesn’t have to be Florida related. šŸ™‚

Florida Gators · Cerebral Palsy · Faith

šŸŠHeading Down to GainesvillešŸŠ

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have, I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Acts 3:6

I read this verse earlier in the week, and it made me think of the last time I visited the Ville (as freshman quarterback Jake Allen refers to it). I thought I’d share this story since I’m on my way to Gainesville now!

 We’d come to town for a basketball game. On the day we left to go back home, I’d waited downstairs in the hotel dining area while my family went up to get our luggage. I’d been absentmindedly watching the news when I noticed a young man cleaning the table beside me. His name, I learned a moment later, was Cory. I said hello, and we got to talking. When I saw him glance at my walker, which sat right beside me, I explained about my cerebral palsy. He listened, and then asked if he could pray for me. I told him yes, thinking he meant he’d pray for me in private. To my surprise, he came over, and, after making sure it was alright, laid his hands on my leg braces and began to pray. He prayed for His healing, and for Him to help me walk on my own. I was touched by his kindness and I loved how open he was about his faith. His prayer made my day, and the thing was, my legs actually felt stronger once he finished. It reminded me just how strong our Lord is. It’s amazing what happens when someone professes their faith so openly, and goes out of his way to be kind to someone else.

Have you ever had someone ask to pray for you in public?

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WordPress Daily Prompt: How One “Natty” Started It All

When I read today’sĀ 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.

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Why I’m Excited About Malik Zaire Coming to UF

Late last night, former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire announced he would transfer to the University of Florida, and spend his final year of eligibility as a Gator. I couldn’t be more excited.

Yes, we have four other quarterbacks on the roster (Jake Allen, Felipe Franks, Luke del Rio, Kyle Trask), and Kadarius Toney is also vying for the starting job. But with our quarterback troubles as of late, I think adding one more is a smart move. In 2015, after a 5-0 start, Will Grier was suspended for PEDs, and our offensive production plummeted. We no longer had the ability to successfully move the ball down the field, and as a result, we lost our undefeated season and lost four of our next eight games, including a 27-2 loss to FSU and a 41-7 loss to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl. Last season, after Luke del Rio was injured in the North Texas game, we were again forced to turn to a back-up. Austin Appleby played well, but we still lost our last three games. Adding one more quarterback gives us one more option, should we face a similar type of adversity in the 2017 season.

He also brings experience to our roster, something you can never have too much of. The knowledge and experience he and del Rio have will only help our offense, especially if our starter ends up being someone who hasn’t started a college football game before. There’s also the fact that, since he is a senior, he can be a leader. If we want to have a successful season, we must have guys step up and lead the team. He could be one of those guys, and that could have a major impact on the outcome of our season.

Here’s the bottom line.Ā We haven’t had success at the quarterback position sinceĀ Tim TebowĀ graduated. If we want to be a dominant force in college football, take down the Tide, and be back in the playoff conversation, successful quarterback play must be there. While Zaire may not be our answer, he could be one piece of the puzzle.

What are your thoughts on Malik Zaire coming to UF? Let me know in the comments!

Florida Gators

The Story Behind the Sunflowers: Team Heather

Florida head softball coach Tim Walton with Heather

*Photo courtesy of People.com

If you’ve ever watched a Florida softball game, you’ve seen the yellow sunflower each player wears in her hair. I’ve often wondered what the story is behind them, so I Googled it. What came up is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read.

The girls wear the flowers in honor of Heather, a teenager who passed away from brain cancer in 2014, according to NewsOK.com. The Friends of Jacelyn Foundation, who pairs cancer patients with sports teams, paired her with Florida’s softball team. The connection was immediate.

Every time Heather went to a game, she was welcomed into the Gators’ dugout. And as she went through treatment, both players and coaches were there with texts, calls, and gifts. They lifted her up, but it soon became obvious she was a gift to them as well. Though she tragically passed away in 2014, the girls still wear sunflowers for her, and Twizzlers, one of her favorite candies, are still popular in Florida’s dugout. In Florida’s locker room, Heather has a locker which pitcher Delanie Gourley says the Gators “will never…. (take) down.” She says the teenager touched them so much, and will always be a part of the team.

So now, when Florida’s softball team takes the field, they play for something much bigger than themselves. They play for the girl who inspires them, for the girl who embodied strength, courage, and inspiration. They play for Heather, who was, and always will be, a part of Florida softball.

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Florida Advances to Regional Final

Minutes ago, the Florida Gators softball team put away the Oklahoma State Cowgirls to stay undefated in regional play. Their next game will take place tomorrow at noon. Our opponent has yet to be determined; we will play the winner of tonight’s elimination game.

Florida’s run for a national championship is off to a strong start. Yesterday afternoon, we defeated Florida A&M 9-0 behind freshman pitcher Delanie Gourley, who threw a no hitter. Our bats came alive, with lead off batter Amanda Lorenz smashing a home run during her first plate appearance. Kayli Kvistad, Sophia Reynoso, and Janell Wheaton were among Gators who also got hits during the game. We run-ruled the Lady Rattlers in five innings.

Today, sophomore pitcher Kelly Barnhill got the start, and was just as lights-out as Gourley had been. At one point towards the end of the game, ESPN showed statistics comparing the two pitchers: the stats were identical, except for strikeouts. (Barnhill had one more.) Once again, our bats were on fire: with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth, Aleshia Ocasio hit a double, knocking in two runs and putting the Gators up 2-0. She would go two for three in the game.

What It Means

The Gators will continue their postseason tomorrow, and if they can keep up the stellar defense, lights-out pitching, and fiery bats, they will be on their way to Oklahoma City and potentially their third national championship in four years.

Note: Stats from floridagators.com as well as Florida Softball’s Twitter account.

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What’s Your Chomp Story?

FloridaGators.com recently announced Chomp Stories, a place where Gator Nation can share their stories of what being a Florida fan means to them. I thought I would share mine with you.

I’ve been a Gator ever since I can remember. Even when I was little, I would watch Gator football with my dad, and pepper him with questions until I could understand the game. Back then, Urban Meyer was our head coach and Tim Tebow was our quarterback. I loved watching and cheering the team on. I can still picture the first play of the 2006 national championship game; I can still see Tebow accepting the Heisman trophy. Florida football was, and still is, a huge part of my life.

Since then, my love for the University of Florida has only grown stronger, and now, even I admit I’m a college football junkie. When a Florida game is on, I’m easily the loudest one in the house. But whether it’s football, softball, volleyball or basketball, I love anything and everything Florida. One of the best weekends of the year is the weekend my family and I go to the Swamp to watch the Gators in action. I love the sea of orange and blue, I love the electric atmosphere in the stadium, and I love the sound of 90,000 people cheering when the team runs out of the tunnel. To me, going to Gainesville feels like going home.

A few things have changed since that 06 national championship win. I’ve met Urban Meyer, and had my W15H granted by Tebow and his foundation. Coach is one of my favorite people, and Timmy (as he told me to call him), is everything he seems to be on TV: extremely kind, incredibly sweet, and has the strongest, most beautiful faith in the Lord. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, and will never change: I still bleed orange and blue, and always will.

That’s my chomp story. What’s yours?