Part of growing up is learning to take responsibility for your actions — especially when you make a mistake.
For most of us, this means taking accountability to a boss, a friend or family member. Not everyone has to have their lowest moment in front of more than 88,000 fans and millions of people watching on television at home.
On third down and goal, Jeff Driskel rolled out and made a great play — although he’ll never get credit for doing so from the fans.
“Jeff was amazing on that play because what he had to do was burst flat because they had an extra guy back over there they actually had two extra guys over there,” offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said. “He had to burst flat to stop their feet and then he had to retreat to be able to get the throw done. You know it was just a heck of a play on his part.”
Driskel faked a handoff to Mack Brown, took two steps to his right to suck in the linebackers before taking two steps back to give himself a throwing lane. He delivered a strike to Tevin Westbrook in the end zone for what would have a three point lead with the PAT pending.
The pass ricocheted off of Westbrook’s hands as the tight end slumped to the turf heartbroken.
“My first initial feeling was to get this ball before it hits the ground,” Westbrook said. “But after that happened, I realized that I dropped it.”
Westbrook’s drop is highlighted, put under a microscope and eventually used as the pivotal play that lost the game for the Gators. That happens when a play like that happens near the end of the game. However, Westbrook’s play was just one miscue amongst many for the Gators against LSU.
“We lost this game as a team,” starting center Max Garcia said. “As an offensive line we want to run the ball and score to win. We don’t want to put it in anyone else’s hands. We want to run the ball and take care of it that way. We let the team down in that way. Defense, third-and-25, you know? Just things like that, we all played a part in it.”
Still, Westbrook felt like he had the game in his hands. A back and forth affair, Westbrook let the moment and the atmosphere of he night creep into his head as Driskel’s pass sailed through the night, heading his way.
“I wasn’t nervous,” Westbrook said. “It was just a roller coaster the whole game. So when it happened, I just wasn’t locked in on the ball. [I was] more just focused on scoring the touchdown, not really securing the ball before I had it.”
The cardinal sin for a receiver is to start running with the ball before you catch it. In Westbrook’s case — standing in the end zone — he didn’t have anywhere to run but he let the moment become bigger than it should have been. You can’t let the moment of a game creep in to your head when you’re in the middle of a play.
It’s a learning experience for Westbrook who was warned to stay off of social media by the coaching staff after the game. He’s watched the drop over and over again in the days following Florida’s 30-27 loss but says he’s had the support of his team to help him get over it and move on.
“Everyone has been supportive, teammates, coaches. We’re a family and try not to listen to anybody else outside of football,” he said. “Coaches they’ve all contacted me and called me over the weekend, all very supportive. Will [Muschamp], D-Lew [Derek Lewis], everybody on the coaching staff and teammates after the game, they could see how upset I was.”
Westbrook fell to the turf on Saturday heartbroken. His 6’5” frame feeling as small as one of the blades of grass he starred down at as the football trickled away. He picked himself up and jogged to the sideline. Then he walked into the defensive meeting room, to a room full of reporters and answered questions about the lowest moment he’s ever experienced on a football field.
It takes a man to sit there in front of television cameras and recorders and own your mistake. The moment on Saturday left Westbrook standing all alone on the field, the spotlight shining on his mistake.
He walked into media today with teammates and the full support of the entire locker room, ready to move on to Missouri.
“I just knew it was going to come back up and I’d rather it be now so I can get it out of the way and focus on Missouri,” he said. “The SEC is a tough conference and that play is going to come up again where I’ve got to make a tough catch and now I know what I’ve got to do to make it happen.”
“So the next time when I make that catch I’m going to come back in here and say the same thing – I looked it in this time.”