Gator alumni coming home

When Will Muschamp came to the Florida program, he came with a plan. Muschamp was faced with a Florida team coming off of a lack luster 9-5 season by Gator standards and a locker room that by all accounts, appeared to be broken.

Players were discouraged and many fans wondered what had happened in just a few short years since Florida’s last National Championship. Muschamp respected the past success of Florida football but was set on paving a new road for the program surrounded by his idea of program culture.

Muschamp brought in a smash mouth mentality and told his team to ignore the outsiders, believe in one another. From this idea brought about the Gator motto of “Florida never breaks”, a belief the team took a hold of in the training room and on the field.

As the Gator football team prepares to improve on their surprising 11-2 mark from last season, Will Muschamp is trying to instill a family feeling in the Florida football program. Several former player’s have returned to the program to train with strength guru Jeff Dillman.

Gator greats like Emmit Smith have never been more visible around the Gator program and more alumni appear to show up around Gainesville every day. Recently, National Champion quarterback Chris Leak was added to the coaching staff as a quality control assistant. As Leak put it, he is “excited to contribute to the success of Coach Muschamp”. Beyond his football knowledge, Leak provides the Florida athletes with a shining example of what hard work and determination can bring to those who want it.

Another former running back, Fred Taylor, believes so much in the Florida coach that he sent his son Kelvin to build on the already stellar Taylor legacy in the Swamp. Muschamp also recently noted that former Gator great Mike Peterson would be coming back to the Florida program to help out some. I don’t think too many people are against having a fourteen year NFL veteran helping out.

Also of note, not to get the hopes up of too many out there, Muschamp was not completely closed to the idea of having Tim Tebow come back to the program in some capacity. The coach recently said it was “certainly a possibility,” when asked about the Heisman winner coming back to his alma mater.

Former Gator Keiwan Ratliff may have described the alumni feelings for Muschamp best, “I love coach Muschamp, he opened the door for us ex-players. I get a chance to take my seven year old son back and walk on the sidelines. He just encourages us. I feel the love as if it was coach Zook or coach Spurrier talking to me.”

I think people often overlook how important ex-players can be to the success of a program. People often forget that the Florida Gator football players are still just college kids at the end of the day when they take off the pads. By leaving the door open for players to come back, kids are given real-life examples of what they can strive for and achieve. Keiwan probably summarized what I want to say best, “I love what coach Muschamp is doing and I support him 100%.”

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Seth Puglio
Seth Puglio joined GatorCountry while he was finishing his sports management degree at the University of Florida. Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Seth has been a huge sports fan his whole life and always knew he would want to get into the sports industry anyway he could. He has spent time working for several athletic administrative departments for the Gators and joined Gator Country as an intern in October of 2012. He is now viewing the sports industry from a new angle as Gator Country’s editor. In his free time Seth enjoys fishing, grilling out, watching too much sports and afternoon naps on the hammock. He is a fan of the Gators, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. Follow Seth on twitter @spuglio