Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Memories fade, names are forgotten but legacies can live on forever.
The legacy that a team leaves within a football program is what creates the ebbs and flows of the school’s history. It’s what separates blue bloods from bottom tiers. It’s what makes champions.
The legacy of the 2019 Florida Gators senior class has been one of resilience, unselfishness and a determination to match the legacies of those that have come before.
"To be able to even play with a group of guys like this, the guys are pretty good in that room. We got athletes all the rooms. Just to be able to step on the field with those guys and to say we have had an impact, it’s pretty good,” says senior receiver Freddie Swain.
This class came in under Jim McElwain’s second year as head coach. They were a part of the SEC Championship followed by the dismal 4-7 season. They transitioned to upperclassmen under an entirely new coaching staff and were tasked with not only holding a team together but setting a new standard.
“These guys have faced lots of different adversity throughout their career coming here,” remarks head coach Dan Mullen.
“Different head coaches, some ups and downs but you know, personally for me, you’re looking at guys that when I got here a couple of years ago, asked them to buy-in to a certain way of doing things and…the guys bought into it. That’s a big thing for me. I told them right from the beginning that we’ll be successful at some point. The sooner everybody buys in, the sooner we’ll be successful, and those guys bought in and we’ve had some success.”
The success came in a 10-win season in 2018, topped with a New Years Six Peach Bowl win over Michigan. The team has a chance to reach the vaulted number now in the regular season with a win on Saturday against FSU. If they follow it with a bowl win, that would give Florida their first 11-win season 2012 when Will Muschamp’s team went to the Sugar Bowl.
The success came in an offense that jumped more than 60 spots in the FBS statistical rankings for scoring, a defense that found their way back into the Top 15 thanks in part to three shutouts and a team that railed off 10 straight wins (over 2018 and 2019) along with a chance to go undefeated at home this season and a good opportunity to beat FSU in the Swamp for the first time since 2009.
And it came thanks in large part to the willingness by a class of guys to commit to outworking everything they had ever done previously. That’s what Josh Hammond hopes lives on.
“I just hope that we're remembered for, I guess, the leading class that kind of helped turn this program around. I think my freshman year we were kind of a dominant program and then we dipped my sophomore year. Last year I think we really made that turn just to bring this university back to like national prominence.
“I think a lot of that had to go with this senior class buying into Mullen's program, doing everything the right way, working as hard as we can, getting other guys to work as hard as we can to be successful and put ourselves in the position that we're in.”
“No quit, play with resilience,” adds linebacker David Reese.
“Just a team, a group of guys that came in here together and had a chance to turn this program around. I feel like it’s been a minute since we have had back-to-back 10-win seasons. I just want to try and make something special.”
Even with a group who had a SEC Championship appearance their freshman season, these last two season are what have shaped them and in turn shaped the imprint they leave on this program. At least, that’s how receiver Tyrie Cleveland feels.
"Being in this program these last two years taught me to fight harder, depend on my teammates more and just have each other's back and not worry about the outside noise. Coach Mullen brought that energy back in this program and the future is bright for Florida.”
The Gators had dreams of a championship this season, of taking a veteran filled roster, getting over the Georgia hump and having a legitimate shot at the playoffs. For a moment, that dream looked like it had realistic tinges. A loss to Georgia for the third year in a row meant the championship would have to wait at least another year. But the bounce back from the loss to beat Vanderbilt 56-0 and run over Missouri set an example that BUCK Jon Greenard hopes the younger players carry forward.
“We didn’t get the result we wanted in the end part but just the bond that we have, and still gonna possibly win 10 games is gonna be a huge thing for us. So to do that is major cause to try to get 10 wins in this league is very difficult. So we done our part and hopefully we, it rubbed off on the younger guys to keep the tradition going, hopefully just build up more than what we did this year and they can just take this in and go to the offseason and hopefully get the result they want next year.”
In essence, this more than anything else is the definition of a legacy. Whatever happens in the future for the Florida Gators may not come directly at the hands of guys like Jon Greenard, Freddie Swain and this 2019 senior class but it will comes because of them, because of what they’ve done and what they created.
Memories fade, names are forgotten but legacies live on forever.
The 2019 senior class has created a legacy of which they can be proud and for which the Florida Gators are better for.