In the sixteen years that I have been hanging around Gator Country one of the all-time recurring arguments has been, what is the greatest Florida Gators football play of all time?
Well, we have settled it. Sort of.
Wednesday morning Gator Country will announce in Part II of this article the greatest Gators’ football play of all time. I would guess even while some are reading this they are thinking (knowing) what the greatest play of all time, it is.
Several weeks ago one of our members and Swamp Gas forums administrator Curtis Jurgensmeyer aka OklahomaGator had an idea.
While the rest of the universe was involved in their March Madness brackets, Curtis decided to build the ultimate set of polls, that would in the end reveal Gator Country’s opinion of the greatest football play of all time.
Here is how it started.
Curtis had just run a series of polls on Too Hot For Swamp Gas to determine which member of Gator Country and THFSG participant would be their pick for the United States Supreme Court. It was in this process that he figured out not only how the polls would work, but what to do in the event of a tie, which did happen in the THFSG polls.
There was even a plan for that which we have not had to use.
After coming up with a number of great plays on his own, Curtis opened the Swamp Gas forum for nominations to come up with a list of the 48 greatest plays of all time.
There were 22 offensive plays so a fake punt and a kick off return were added to the offensive side to get to 24. There were 20 defensive plays and 4 other special teams plays on the defensive side of the bracket.
The oldest play would have been Steve Spurrier’s field goal against Auburn in 1966 and the newest would be Antonio Callaway’s winning touchdown against Tennessee, a period of fifty years between great plays.
Of course, most of the great plays have happened since 1990 and that could well be that Florida Gators football has been at its best since then, but also media exposure probably played a great influence.
As an older Gators fan, I have seen every one of the nominated plays, some when they happened and some on replay, but when that particular play happened, in most cases, I thought it was the
greatest play ever. That is the emotion of seeing a great play.
Going back to 1966 and the Spurrier era there was not much TV coverage so listening to the game on the radio then catching ten minutes of replays of all of the day’s action on the evening news was the best same day action we got.
However, the following day we would get 30 minutes of Florida Gators Football with Ray Graves and for fans of my age and older, that is the memory we have of great wins of that era and the Spurrier kick was one of those plays. Really, until someone posted it to YouTube.com fans of that decade went nearly 50 years between seeing that kick made and a replay of it.
Perhaps that is why it still has some of its mystique.
A year later was the Richard Trapp touchdown where he broke about a hundred tackles to help beat the Bulldogs in Jacksonville. That was a game that many Gators saw the play as it was on live television that afternoon, but I have never seen a replay since the weekend that the game was played. Yet, from what I can remember of that play caused me to vote for it as the greatest until it was defeated in the polls.
It was my favorite play of all time, but I don’t think it was the greatest. I was 15 when I saw it and things we see as teenagers are often larger than they should be.
Those plays and really any play up until 1991 did not really win the Gators anything officially, just memories and those are the best sports memorabilia a fan can have because it stays with you as long as you have a memory and no one can take it from you.
After Steve Spurrier became our head coach in 1990, most of the plays nominated could all be linked to winning a championship, in fact, most all of the great plays were in championship seasons.
Right now, there are two plays left in the poll, one led to a title and the other we did not win any sort of a title that season, but the play is still so memorable to us that nearly 20 years later we still get all riled up remembering it.
So, what makes a great play and maybe more specifically what makes a great play great for Gators?
There are some basic ingredients that a great play may contain, but not all them have all of those ingredients.
Most great plays contained someone who would become or was already a star. Take the Cris Collinsworth 99 yard pass he made. He would become a star, just not at quarterback.
I believe in every great play nominated we won the game, but there may be an exception. Most of these plays in the bracket happened late in the game, only one on the last play. So, there was always a chance that the greatest play would not be the greatest play, if the Gators did not close the deal.
Take the Joey Kent hit, which may be the only great play that is known as much for the opponent than the Gator who delivered it, Lawrence Wright.
Yet, the very next play the Gators gave the ball up, Tennessee scored and the Gators deficit grew. Yet, everyone in that stadium who watched the rest of that game knew when momentum went the other way. Twenty-one years later, that play and the game are embedded in our memory. A great play defined as much by the 62 points we would score to seal the deal as watching Kent having his clock-cleaned.
I now wonder if the play would have even been legal this day and age.
Another beloved play came in a game of sloppy plays, but then lightning struck and before we knew it, Doering’s got a touchdown, Doering’s got a touchdown. The play had everything to be a great play, on the road, we did not play well, wonder-boy quarterback and receiver step into stardom, but then add one more thing. The resonant call by Mick Hubert.
The call did not make the play, the play made the call. That is sports. When I heard it and every time since, the call reminded me of Howard Cosell saying over and over “down goes Frazier, down goes Frazier”. Mick could just have well had been declaring “down goes Kentucky, down goes Kentucky” and my boys and me, riding around in pop’s truck would have had those words burned into our brains, instead of Doering’s got a touchdown.
As mentioned, the newest play of the list is teh Will Grier to Antonio Callaway touchdown pass to beat Tennessee just this past season. I do not want to open up a case of what-ifs here, but if Grier had not been suspended and the Gators had kept rolling, this play had everything to be one of, if not the greatest play of all time. In its own way, it became the beginning of the end for the Gators.
Finally, what the poll will reveal tomorrow is not what your favorite play is, but what an accumulative group of fans came up with as the greatest play. As I will write tomorrow, I think the play that wins, deserves to be the greatest Florida Gators football play of all time, but that does not take away from John Reaves hitting Carlos Alvarez or Kerwin Bell’s three-yard run on guts and will. Those plays stand on their own and will continue to do so as long as there is a Gators fan with breath in his lungs and a thought in his head.