He’s never seen a second of playing time in the Florida football uniform he’s worn on the sidelines for almost four full seasons. You may recognize him as the guy who frantically signs in plays to Florida’s signal callers out on the field. He’s senior Christian Provancha, and in his most recent game he came just a Skyler Mornhinweg injury away from being Florida’s quarterback in its 19-14 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Provancha is a walk-on, a player not highly sought after by any major college programs coming out of Cocoa Beach Junior-Senior High School. Scholarship offers from Florida A&M and Charleston Southern were his most noteworthy, despite being in talks to attend other schools and walk-on there, but those fizzled.
“Visited South Carolina and [quarterbacks] coach [G.A] Mangus and stuff like that,” Provancha said. “And, you know, they always said, ‘Oh yeah, you got a chance, but we’ll get back to you.’ It was always, ‘we’ll get back to you.’ The same with a lot places like that. Charleston Southern, I maybe could have gone there. But my heart was here.”
He followed in his older brother Ian’s footsteps and attended the University of Florida, and says he would have been content just being a regular student pursuing academic goals (he’s an environmental science major planning to get his degree next spring and go to graduate school). His purely academic track changed when he was offered a walk-on spot by then quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler.
“As of the last few years when you’re No. 5 in the lineup and you’ve got guys going in at wildcat probably instead of you, then you’re focused on school,” Provancha said. “You’re focused on school and that’s how walk-on life is here.”
Against the Gamecocks, he wasn’t No. 5 in the lineup anymore, through injuries to junior Jeff Driskel and redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, there was a very real possibility that Provancha would get to play. Injury was not the way he wanted to see his first game action though.
“Everyone hopes to be in this situation where you have the opportunity to contribute, but not like this,” Provancha said. “You want to work your way up the ladder with skill. We’ve been plagued by injury and stuff, but I was just really happy to be able to show that I’m there for the team and stuff like that.”
He is of course, a quarterback by trade, but moonlit as a wide receiver last season thanks to a lack of depth at the position. Much to his chagrin, the school’s website still has him listed as a wideout.
“I know [Florida’s sports information director] doesn’t run it,” Provancha said. “But I’ve been trying to get the site changed. I came here as a quarterback, was a quarterback three years. And then I think in camp last year we were low on receivers and I showed them what I got, so they put me at wide receiver. I guess I scared some people with the roster, a 6-6 receiver. But I’m still pretty slow.”
On Tuesday, Provancha met with the media and absolutely held court, delivering a nearly 10-minute presser that has rivaled that of defensive tackle Dominique Easley and linebacker Micheal Taylor for sheer entertainment value.
Speaking of Easley, as a walk-on, there may be a misconception that you don’t mix with the team’s higher profile stars, like the havoc-wreaking defensive lineman destined for the NFL. Provancha says that isn’t true.
“He might call me Provolone or Pro, but yes he knows who I am,” Provancha said.
One person who definitely knows who he is? His girlfriend of nearly 10 months, fourth year sports management major Christina Valenziano. She respects and admires the way Provancha balances school and football. She also enjoys a different side of Provancha: his musical prowess.
“Christian is really talented with the piano and the guitar,” Valenziano said. “I love listening to him play both. I’ve actually asked him to learn a couple songs on the guitar and he is able to look up the chords and play right away.”
Provancha has put his musical talents on display before for teammates, most notably, while the team was preparing for the 2011 Outback bowl. You may recognize his background singers, former Gators like running back Jeff Demps, defensive tackle Brandon Antwine and BUCK Lerentee McCray.
Provancha says if Florida gets back to a bowl game this season, he may be in line for an encore performance.
Away from the piano bench, he’s a gangly, long limbed 6-6 weighing in at a self-proclaimed 220 pounds “wet.” When running the scout team at practice, he impersonates the likes of former Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Tyler Bray and “any tall white quarterbacks out there.”
“I always joke about how he needs to come running with me because I know he would hate it,” Valenziano said. “I also always poke fun at him whenever we shoot around on the basketball court – if he ever misses a shot, I’m there to tell him to stick to football. It’s all out of love, though!”
Besides Christina, the other members of his supporting cast include his parents. His father drives up from Cocoa Beach at least once a week to watch practice, and Provancha calls him “the best dad in the world.” He says his mother has gone a bit haywire with the text messages since he’s been so close to playing, but he’s still part of a great family that’s proud of him.
“[His parents] make every home game, including Gator Walk, and stay for the whole game to walk Christian home after the game,” Valenziano said. “They are so excited for him to have had such a great opportunity during his college years.”
Barring injury or a blowout Florida victory, Christian Provancha isn’t going to play in a game for the Gators. That’s the plight of a walk-on, but he’s got respect from teammates and love from family and friends, whether you’re mistaking his last name for a deli cheese or not.
“Just as I was excited to hear that he might get the opportunity, my family was, too,” Valenziano said. “We all root for him each game and would love to see him be able to show what he’s worked so hard for.”