Joe Haden and Percy Harvin are two players from different sides of the line of scrimmage but with the same goal – winning a national championship for the Florida Gators.
They were among the many Florida players and coaches who gathered with the media to watch the Bowl Championship Series final rankings and pairings show on Sunday, a day after the Gators won their ninth straight game of the season by downing previously unbeaten Alabama, 31-20, in the SEC Championship Game at Atlanta.
The team was excited but many still maintained a business-like approach to the announcements of the BCS bowl pairings, the last of which put the Gators into the FedEx National Championship Game on Jan. 8 in Miami against the Oklahoma Sooners.
For the Gators, there is much satisfaction, particularly in their comeback from a 31-30 loss to Mississippi in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and how far they have come since their 41-35 loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2008 concluded the 2007 season with a 9-4 record.
But to a man, the Gators realize their work is not done.
Haden, a sophomore cornerback, is motivated by the perception that the Florida defense is underrated. No matter what his opinion is, the Gators will most definitely be challenged to slow down an offense that is averaging more than 50 points a game.
“We like having challenges,” Haden said. “People have said that (team’s offense) wasn’t a really good offense or that wasn’t a good offense. So we really want to play against one of the best offenses to prove how good our defense really is.”
Haden and the rest of his defensive teammates believe they have to prove themselves all over again.
“We feel like we’re one of the best defenses in the nation,” Haden said. “(But) we sometimes feel like we still don’t get the credit we should. They’ll say that we have a good defense. This would definitely seal that.”
Haden understands that a lot is expected of him.
“It feels like I’m an important part of the team,” he said. “Coach Meyer tells me that I’ve grown up a lot since last year and I’m a leader in the secondary. That makes me feel real important and feel really good.”
Most everyone realizes Harvin’s importance to the Florida offense, including Harvin himself. It practically killed him when he missed most of the 45-15 victory at Florida State after injuring his right ankle, an injury that kept him out of Saturday’s SEC Championship victory over Alabama.
To put It mildly, last week was a difficult seven days for Harvin, who wanted to play and make his contributions.
“So bad,” Harvin said. “I’ve just been trying to lay low, because I’ve wanted it so bad. The coaches have been telling me to relax and get healthy, so like I said, I’m doing pretty good right now. The heel (is) healing up, so I should be all right.”
Harvin’s immediate plans? “I’ll go to practice just like I normally do, get a little bit more treatment and that’s pretty much it,” he said. “The doctor said that I should be up and running if not by the end of this week then by next week.”
Both Joe Haden and Percy Harvin plan to be ready on Jan. 8.