A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
GIVING BACK: CJ HENDERSON GIVES $250,000 TO HIS HIGH SCHOOL
Mike DiRocco, ESPN’s Jacksonville Jaguars beat writer who spent a few years on the Gator beat for the Times-Union, reports that former Gator corner CJ Henderson has donated $250,000 to Christopher Columbus High School in Miami. The money is to renovate the school’s training room and will provide massage chairs and training tables.
In a statement released by Henderson: “This gift is a way for me to give back to the school who helped me so much. It feels good to know that I will play a part in helping future student-athletes at Columbus.”
I’m always happy when I see an athlete give back to the people who helped get him/her where they are today. Whether it’s to their former high school or university, I would like to see more athletes say, “Thanks, because without you, I couldn’t have had this incredible opportunity, so I want to do what I can to help pave the way for someone else.”
I have to admit I’m a bit perplexed at the lack of giving back by former Florida athletes. I’ll use golf as a perfect example. Florida’s facilities are easily in the lower half of the Southeastern Conference, which is one of the reasons the Gators struggle to win the SEC and compete among the elite teams in the country. Georgia, on the other hand, has outstanding facilities, which contributes mightily to recruiting better golfers. I know for a fact that Georgia alums on the PGA Tour readily contribute a percentage of their earnings to the golf program.
I’ve always admired Steve Spurrier for his generosity to all Florida sports and not just football. He’s never forgotten that Florida gave him a place to play college football and a place to come coach where he won a national championship and six SEC titles. I wish more former Florida athletes and coaches were willing to show a bit more love.
JAGUARS WILL GIVE TEBOW A CHANCE AS A TIGHT END
Tim Tebow signed a 1-year contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars Monday, something that was expected ever since the news leaked that he had worked out for Urban Meyer a few weeks ago. Whatever money is in the contract is dependent upon Tebow making the team, but this isn’t about money. It’s about Meyer believing in Tebow enough to give him one last chance. If he makes the team, it’s a great story. If he doesn’t, then at least Urban gave Tebow that one final opportunity.
Once the news broke that Tebow was getting a shot to play, the skeptics were quick to point out that the only reason it’s happening is because Tebow and Meyer have remained close throughout the years. Of course, that’s the reason this is happening, but so what? Every single year in every professional sport, players ask a former coach or a friend on a team to lobby for one more opportunity to prove they belong. And, every single year wishes are granted. Occasionally, they pan out but more often they don’t. Tebow’s situation may be a bit out of the ordinary since it’s been so long since he played football, but it’s not the first nor will it be the last time a favor was granted to see if an athlete who’s a bit past his prime still can cut it.
DiRocco points out the odds are long that Tebow will make the team. He writes, “He has not been asked to block linebackers or defensive ends snap after snap. He has never caught a pass in college or the NFL. Tebow is a very good athlete and he’s going to put in the work – and the extra work – but he’s starting from ground zero.”
Should Tebow defy the odds and make the Jaguars roster he still will have to prove he belongs. Unlike college football where there is an 85-scholarship roster, redshirt seasons and a developmental process that might take five years, the NFL operates with 53 players, all of whom have to contribute from day one. Even if he isn’t catching passes, Tebow will have to play on and contribute to the special teams. That’s something else he’s never played.
From a personal standpoint, I would love to see Tebow make a comeback that shocks the world. I will be pulling for him to exceed everyone’s expectations. That being said, I think trying to play tight end in the NFL is something Tebow should have thought about back in 2013.
GATORS BACK IN THE TOP 10 IN ALL BASEBALL POLLS Okay, maybe the Gators aren’t carrying the No. 1 torch as the regular season winds down to its final two weeks, but this is one of the hotter teams in the country. Since dropping the first two games of their series in Knoxville to a Tennessee team that is in everybody’s top six, the Gators have gone 13-3 and have won all four of their SEC series. After falling all the way back to 19th in some of the weekly polls, Florida (33-14, 15-9 SEC East) has climbed back into the top ten in all four of the major polls, holding down the No. 7 ranking in both the Collegiate Baseball and USA Today Coaches polls.
The Gators are a mortal lock to make the NCAA Tournament field and if they can pull off a sweep this weekend when Georgia (28-18, 11-13 SEC East) comes to Gainesville for the next-to-last SEC series of the regular season, they could nail down a host site for a Regional.
Tonight the Gators will face Stetson (24-20) in DeLand for the final non-conference game of the regular season.
Collegiate Baseball poll: 1. Arkansas 36-9; 2. Vanderbilt 34-10; 3. Mississippi State 35-11; 4. Texas 38-12; 5. TCU 34-12; 6. Tennessee 37-11; 7. FLORIDA 33-14; 8. Louisville 26-15; 9. Texas Tech 31-11; 10. Stanford 26-10; 11. Arizona 32-13; 12. Oregon 30-11; 13. East Carolina 33-10; 14. Ole Miss 33-14; 15. Notre Dame 25-10; 16. South Carolina 28-17; 17. UCLA 27-15; 18. UC-Irvine 29-15; 19. Pittsburgh 22-13; 20. Louisiana Tech 33-12; 21. Oklahoma State 27-15-1; 22. Arizona State 27-15; 23. Michigan 23-12; 24. Charlotte 35-14; 25. Georgia Tech 24-18; 26. Gonzaga 27-13; 27. Fairfield 33-1; 28. Dallas Baptist 29-11; 29. Southern Miss 33-15; 30. Florida State 25-17.
USA Today Coaches poll: 1. Arkansas 36-9; 2. Vanderbilt 34-10; 3. Mississippi State 35-11; 4. Texas 38-12; 5. Tennessee 37-11; 6. TCU 34-12; 7. FLORIDA 33-14; 8. Texas Tech 31-11; 9. Oregon 30-11; 10. Notre Dame 25-10; 11. East Carolina 33-10; 12. Arizona 32-13; 13. Stanford 26-10; 14. Ole Miss 33-14; 15. Louisville 26-15; 16. Louisiana Tech 33-12; 17. Southern Miss 33-15; 18. Pittsburgh 22-13; 19. Florida State 25-17; 20. Charlotte 35-14; 21. South Carolina 28-17; 22. UCLA 27-15; 23. Indiana 23-10; 24. Old Dominion 33-13; 25. UC-Irvine 29-15.
D1Baseball.com poll: 1. Arkansas 36-9; 2. Vanderbilt 34-10; 3. Mississippi State 35-11; 4. Tennessee 37-11; 5. Texas 38-12; 6. TCU 34-12; 7. Texas Tech 31-11; 8. Notre Dame 25-10; 9. FLORIDA 33-14; 10. Oregon 30-11; 11. East Carolina 33-10; 12. Stanford 26-10; 13. Arizona 32-13; 14. Louisiana Tech 33-12; 15. Louisville 26-15; 16. Pittsburgh 22-13; 17. Florida State 25-17; 18. Ole Miss 33-14; 19. Southern Miss 33-15; 20. Charlotte 35-14; 21. Indiana 23-10; 22. Gonzaga 27-13; 23. UCLA 27-15; 24. UC-Irvine 29-15; 25. South Carolina 28-17.
Baseball America poll: 1. Arkansas 36-9; 2. Vanderbilt 34-10; 3. Mississippi State 35-11; 4. Notre Dame 25-10; 5. Tennessee 37-11; 6. TCU 34-12; 7. Texas 38-12; 8. Texas Tech 31-11; 9. FLORIDA 33-14; 10. Arizona 32-13; 11. Louisville 26-15; 12. East Carolina 33-10; 13. Florida State 25-17; 14. Stanford 26-10; 15. Oregon 30-11; 16. Pittsburgh 22-13; 17. Ole Miss 33-14; 18. Louisiana Tech 33-12; 19. Charlotte 35-14; 20. Southern Miss 33-15; 21. Indiana 23-10; 22. UC-Irvine 29-15; 23. Old Dominion 33-13; 24. South Carolina 28-17; 25. Fairfield 33-1.
ECHOLS SEC SOFTBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK After doing her part to help the Cardiac Gators (40-8) win a share of the Southeastern Conference championship, Florida’s Charla Echols was named SEC Player of the Week. Echols, who leads the Gators with 13 homers and 49 RBI, hit a 3-run homer in the bottom of the seventh on Friday night to lead the Gators to a 5-3 come-from-behind win over Texas A&M. Sunday afternoon, with the Gators trailing the Aggies, 5-4, Echols delivered an opposite field double that set the stage for Julia Cottrill’s walk-off 2-run home run to give Tim Walton the eighth SEC championship in his 16 years on the job at UF.
The sweep of the Aggies moved the Gators up to No. 3 nationally in the D1Softball.com poll.
The Gators are the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa where they will face the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between No. 8 seed Ole Miss (34-19) and No. 9 Mississippi State (32-22) at noon on Thursday.
D1Softball.com poll: 1. Oklahoma 42-2; 2. UCLA 38-3; 3. FLORIDA 40-8; 4. Alabama 42-7; 5. Washington 39-9; 6. Oklahoma State 40-8; 7. Arkansas 40-8; 8. Florida State 38-9-1; 9. LSU 31-18; 10. Arizona 35-10; 11. Arizona State 32-14; 12. Missouri 37-14; 13. Oregon 33-15; 14. Louisiana 40-10; 15. Kentucky 38-12; 16. Clemson 40-5; 17. Texas 38-9; 18. Michigan 32-6; 19. Minnesota 26-10; 20. Virginia Tech 32-12; 21. Duke 39-10; 22. Tennessee 39-12; 23. Ole Miss 34-19; 24. Notre Dame 31-12; 25. James Madison 31-1.
Other UF spring sports:
Track and field: Florida’s men’s and women’s teams head to College Station for the SEC Outdoor Championships. The Florida men are ranked eighth nationally while the women are ranked tenth.
Women’s golf: After the first day of competition in NCAA Regional play at Stanford, California, the Gators are tied for eighth place with Northwestern. The Gators are 6-over par, a full 18 shots behind host and leader Stanford, which shot 12-under par Monday. Florida’s top scorer was Clara Manzalini, who shot a 2-under par 69, good for a tie for seventh.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC
Alabama: On ESPN’s First Take show, Stephen A. Smith responded to comments by Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher that he’s going to beat Nick Saban’s ass. Said Stephen A., “They’re (A&M) going to get a beat down. A massacre is coming. An annihilation is coming to College Station.”
Arkansas: The Razorbacks hold down the No. 1 ranking in all four major collegiate baseball polls.
Auburn: So far, 16 Auburn football players have transferred out. Auburn also lost five players who left early for the NFL Draft.
Kentucky: One of Kentucky’s major targets in the basketball transfer portal was former Minnesota point guard Marcus Carr, who officially declared for the NBA Monday. He will hire an agent. Kentucky is also in hot pursuit of former Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler.
Missouri: HBC Eli Drinkwitz speaking to Matt Hayes on SEC quarterbacks: “Quarterbacks are the erasers. Their athletic ability gives them a chance to extend plays to make plays. When you’re talking about a QB-driven league, it’s do you have one who can extend plays, or is smart enough in your system to get you in the right play.”
Tennessee: With No. 1 Arkansas (36-9, 17-7 SEC West) coming to Knoxville this weekend to face the 5th-ranked Vols (37-11, 17-7 SEC East), the UT athletic department announced Lindsey Nelson Stadium will be at full capacity.
Texas A&M: Matt Hayes on the Aggies in 2021: “The Aggies will have a top-3 SEC defense in 2021, and an offensive line that – despite being rebuilt – could be just as physical and defining as last year’s Maroon Goons. The X-factor is projected starting QB Haynes King, who will have 5 winnable games to find a rhythm before Alabama comes to College Station.”
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Not that anything he has to say is relevant, but up hearing that Tim Tebow was signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Fox Sports radio host Colin Cowherd chimed in with this: “This feels like a college coach that doesn’t quite understand the Tebow disruptiveness that could happen if Trevor Lawrence struggles. Tebow’s not a franchise quarterback. He’s a third-string guy.” Maybe Colin hasn’t read the news that Tebow is getting a shot as a TIGHT END, not as a quarterback. Trevor Lawrence has millions in guaranteed money. He makes the team no matter what. Tebow is on a make-good contract to play TIGHT END. If Trevor Lawrence struggles, Urban Meyer will replace him with a quarterback who’s been playing in the NFL. Maybe Colin ought to call up his old college roomie Jim McElwain and have Old Yeller himself tell him the difference in a QB with a big, guaranteed contract, and a 33-year-old TIGHT END who hasn’t been in the league since 2012 trying to learn a new position.