THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JULY 5, 2019
REMEMBERING GEORGE EDMONDSON
For a 9-year-old, attending his first college football game, the sights and sounds of Florida Field on October 1, 1960 were a rapid fire assault on my emotions and imagination. There was a crowd of 39,000, the largest gathering of people in one place that I had ever experienced for unranked Florida vs. mighty Georgia Tech. The band played, people shouted and clapped and cheered. I wanted to sing “Orange and Blue” but I didn’t know the words. The band marched on the field with “the biggest boom in Dixie,” the huge bass drum that was a part of Florida Field tradition.
We were seated in the West stands on the end of the aisle and next to tunnel #12, which was about halfway up and somewhere around the 30-yard line. I knew just enough football to understand what was going on down on the field and was really starting to get into the game when this man in a yellow shirt with an orange and blue tie suddenly appeared, tooting a whistle that he wore on a string around his neck.
I was absolutely mesmerized as he held up two fingers and on cue, people started the two bits cheer. I knew the cheer, having gone to Seminole High School football games at Municipal Stadium in Sanford and I stood up and hollered as loud as I could.
And just like that he disappeared.
“Where did he go?” I asked my grandfather. “Who was that man?”
My grandfather smiled and explained that was “Mr. Two Bits.” For the rest of the game, I kept one eye on what was going on down on the field and another searching for the next appearance of “Mr. Two Bits.” He made his second appearance at our section in the second half. This time I was ready to cheer, ready to stand up and holler.
In the fourth quarter, with time running out, Larry Libertore pitched out to Lindy Infante who scored a touchdown to cut Georgia Tech’s lead to 17-16. The crowd roared and grown men and women jumped up and down to celebrate. I had never heard such a roar of people in all my life.
Amid the cheers, a man in the row above us shouted out, “Two! We’re going for two!”
My grandfather pointed down to Ray Graves, Florida’s head ball coach, who had two fingers raised high above his head. I had to ask my grandfather what was going on and he told me the Gators were going to go for a two-point conversion. Make it and the Gators would win. Miss and they would lose.
Down on the field, Larry Libertore faked a dive play into the line to fullback Jon MacBeth but that well trained Georgia Tech defense was having none of it. They knew Libertore was going to slide down the line and pitch once again to Lindy Infante. Only he didn’t. The linebackers slid on over and there in the end zone was MacBeth, who had sneaked through the line to an open spot. They called what Libertore did a pass but it was more like a shot put. Whatever it was, it settled into MacBeth’s waiting arms. As the referee gave the signal, the crowd once again roared but this time it was even louder than before.
Florida 18, Georgia Tech 17. I’ll never forget that day. If you want to know when I became a Gator for life, that was it and it was more than just the football. Mr. Two Bits had a lot to do with it.
Three years later, I sold my first tray of Cokes at Florida Field. By the third quarter I was tired and ready to call it a successful day since by my calculations I had already made more than $4, a large sum for a 12-year-old in 1963. About that time, I saw Mr. Two Bits, sprinting through the concourse. I decided if he still had that much energy, I could continue selling Cokes.
It’s funny the things that stick with you through the years. When I read about the death of George Edmondson, the Citadel graduate who adopted the Gators as his team and for more than 50 years raced through stadiums where the Gators were playing leading that simple cheer, I thought back to those two moments in my Gator experience and treasured the memories. I will always think that he was the first great Gator tradition, before we swayed to “We Are the Boys” at the end of the third quarter and before Gators and the chomp became synonymous.
Rain or shine, hot or cold, win or lose, home or away, George Edmondson was faithful to the Gators. He was the definition of those lyrics that go “In all kinds of weather we all stick together” and I have to think he was the inspiration for that old bumper sticker that read, “We know that God is a Gator because the sun is orange and the sky is blue.”
Rest in peace, George Edmondson. If there is cheering for the Gators in heaven, I know you’re leading the cheers.
THE LIST FOR FRIDAY
Ranking the best quarterbacks in Florida football history.
1. Tim Tebow: Tim was 35-6 as a starter, a key contributor to the 2006 national championship and the driving force behind the national title in 2008. He won the 2007 Heisman and was on the podium in 2008 and 2009. He passed for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns, ran for 2,947 yards and 57 TDs.
1A. Danny Wuerffel: Wuerffel split time with Terry Dean in 1993-94. In 1995 he was the Heisman runner-up when he led the Gators to a 12-1 record. He won the Heisman in 1996 when he led the Gators to a 12-1 record and their first national championship. He threw for 10,784 yards and 114 touchdowns and ran for eight in his career.
3. Steve Spurrier: John Logue of the Atlanta Journal once wrote, “Blindfolded, with his back to the wall, his hands tied behind him, Steve Spurrier would still be a two-point favorite at his own execution.” Spurrier was the original comeback kid who made fans stick around until the final whistle. He won the 1966 Heisman. His career stats were huge in his day, quite modest by today’s standards – 4,848 passing yards for 36 touchdowns and there was that teensy little 40-yard field goal to beat Auburn that really won him the Heisman.
4. Shane Matthews: Shane Matthews is the only quarterback who learned the Spurrier offense in one spring. He was the two-time SEC Player of the Year (1990-91). Not bad for a guy who was the sixth string QB when Spurrier arrived. He threw for 9,287 yards and 74 touchdowns and ran for seven more while leading the Gators to their first official SEC title in 1991.
5. Rex Grossman: Grossman actually recruited the Gators. From Indiana, he wasn’t being recruited by UF until he sent tapes of his games to Spurrier. He should have won the 2000 Heisman. He finished his career with 9,164 passing yards and 77 touchdowns and ran for six more.
6. Chris Leak: When he was signed by Ron Zook he promised to lead the Gators to a national championship. Zook was fired after his sophomore year, but Leak kept his promise and led the Gators to the 2006 national championship, outshining Heisman winner Troy Smith in UF’s 41-14 championship game win over Ohio State. Leak threw for 11,213 yards and 88 touchdowns and ran for 13 more.
7. Kerwin Bell: Bell is the greatest walk-on in UF history. As a redshirt freshman, he became the starting QB just days before the season opener with Miami. He led UF to consecutive 9-1-1 seasons (1984-85) and finished his UF career with 7,585 passing yards and 56 TDs plus four rushing TDs.
8. John Reaves: You wonder what might have been if Ray Graves had remained UF’s coach. Reaves thrived under Graves but floundered under Doug Dickey. His 7.549 yards were the NCAA record at the time (1971). He threw 54 touchdown passes and ran for three more.
9. Doug Johnson: He spent three years in and out of Steve Spurrier’s doghouse, but there was no denying his arm talent. Johnson threw for 7,114 yards and 62 touchdowns in his career, ran for three and caught a pass for another.
10. Terry Dean: He backed up Wuerffel for two seasons then was a sometimes starter in 1993-94. He was the MVP of the 1993 Sugar Bowl win over West Virginia. He finished his career with 3,420 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, ran for three and caught a pass for another.
Monday: Ranking the best running backs in Florida history.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
Padraig Harrington, speaking to The Telegraph in London, talks about Tiger Woods, who, so far, isn’t playing any tournament golf just prior to the British Open, which begins in two weeks:
“I personally think if you’re serious about winning the Open you’ve got to be playing tournament golf at least before it. “You’d rather be playing links golf and being in a tournament than just [playing] on your own, so if you’re serious about trying to win the Open you should be playing at least one, if not two, of the events running into it.”
From Bruce Feldman of the Athletic, Hal Mumme talked about the late Jared Lorenzen:
“The year after Couch went to the NFL, we had a spring scrimmage. I had the quarterbacks go live to see what they could do. Jared takes off scrambling. Eric Kelly our really fine cornerback, breaks down like he’s going to make a form tackle. Jared hurdles him. It looked like a deer goin’ over a fence. He was probably 6-4, 300 but he could run 4.8.”
More Hal Mumme talking about Lorenzen:
“We had a camp and did a punt, pass and kick deal, like where we’re going to see who can throw it the farthest. Jared’s the second or third kid to go. He throws it 90 yards in the air, and it went like six inches off the line. All of the other quarterbacks quit after that.”
From Manny Navarro of The Athletic, University of Miami athletic director Blake James talking about how long it will take to bring The U back to prominence:
“So I think there’s got to be a window for us to start building depth and getting the guys that we need to be here to sustain it. Again, I think that happens with time. I hate to put numbers on it, but I know that makes for better stories. So somewhere in the three- to five-year window, we should be able to look at it and say, maybe we’re not winning national championships yet, but we’ve put a program in place that when things go right we have a chance to win it all year in and year out.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Kendrick Norton lost an arm to amputation after his Ford F250 crashed into a concrete barrier near Miami Thursday … Joey Chestnut devoured 71 hot dogs in 10 minutes Thursday to win the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. It was the 12thtime Chestnut has won the event, staged every Fourth of July … In handing out a show cause penalty to former UConn basketball coach Kevin Ollie, the NCAA says Ollie lied and misled investigators … Jalen Rose of ESPN says sources are telling him Kawhi Leonard will re-sign with the Toronto Raptors … Rather than give Andre Igoudala a buyout that would allow him to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Memphis Grizzlies are looking into trade options that include the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks … Former Gator Pete Alonso is the #2 seed for the Home Run Derby Monday night in Cleveland. Here are the seedings 1-8: 1. Christian Yelich (Brewers); 2. Alonso (Mets); 3. Josh Bell (Pirates); 4. Alex Bregman (Astros); 5. Joc Pederson (Dodgers); 6. Ronald Acuna (Braves); 7. Carlos Santana (Indians); 8. Vladimir Geurrero Jr. (Blue Jays).