Earlier this week, we looked at the top five Gators quarterbacks of all time.
Today, the series continues with a look at the top five Gators wide receivers of all time:
5. Ike Hilliard
“We like Ike!” In fact, following an illustrious collegiate career, the New York Giants liked Ike so much the organization’s brass chose to make Hilliard one of the highest Gators selections ever at No. 7 overall.
The decision was made based on the strength of Hilliard’s university resume. The Giants’ lucky number seven had just put up big-time numbers in big-time games. Among a slew of team, conference, and national regular season records and awards, Hilliard’s 1996 season put his name into the conversation as one of the best championship game receivers in the history of college football.
How, you might ask?
With Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel dissecting the opposing defense, consensus All-American Hilliard would finish out the 1996 National Championship game victory with Sugar Bowl records of 150 yards and three receiving touchdowns.
Sweet as Sugar.
4. Reidel Anthony
An absolute burner, Anthony announced his presence to the Gator Nation practically as soon as he stepped onto the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
As a young gunnin’ frosh way back in 1994, the man with the jets hauled in an 87-yard touchdown pass against Southern Miss.
Despite the massive yards-per-catch average, however, it was not until his junior year that he began to put his personal stamp on the Gators’ record books. Spearheading the program’s 1996 national championship effort, Anthony led the SEC with 72 receptions for 1,293 yards. His average of more than 18 yards per catch should prove just how viable a deep threat Anthony was, but there is another statistic that stands out, proving just how important Anthony was to coach Steve Spurrier’s winning “fun ‘n’ gun” formula:
With 18 touchdown passes caught over the 1996 championship season, Anthony set a single-season touchdown reception record that still stands today.
Despite having forgone his senior season of eligibility, Anthony remains at number three on the school’s all-time receiving yards list.
Over the course of time, his records will gradually move down the leaderboard, but Florida fans that had the pleasure of watching the speedster run will be hard-pressed to forget this consensus All-American.
3. Percy Harvin
Big Man on Campus hardly begins to start the story. Harvin walked into Gainesville as one of the most highly-touted recruits the program had ever seen.
Not only did Harvin lead his high school team to the Virginia state championship as a junior, but he totally dominated every facet of the game. He shot to the top of the Rivals.com and Scout.com recruit rankings after piling up a whopping 476 all-purpose yards and finding the end zone five times. You read that right boys and girls, but let’s try it again for good measure:
Four hundred seventy-six yards. In one game. Dang.
So talented was young Percy that he is still the only person in the history of Virginia high school track and field to win five state championships in five different events in the same year: The long jump, triple jump, 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and the 400-meter dash.
Once he was teamed up with The Chosen One (if you have to ask…), Harvin became one of the main cogs of coach Urban Meyer’s wishbone offense.
In the 2006 national championship game victory against Ohio State, Harvin rushed for 22 yards and a touchdown to go along with 60 receiving yards. Thus, despite missing time with knee and heel injuries, as well as what could have been a traumatic neck sprain, Harvin, like a boss, was still named the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2006.
His fast start only continued into his sophomore year. Not only did he rush and receive for more than 100 yards each in a midseason contest against Vanderbilt, but he became the first and still only Gators football player to surpass both 1,000 yards rushing and receiving for his career.
And the man did it in a mere two seasons. Yup, boss.
Harvin opted for the NFL Draft following his junior season, having averaged a mind-boggling 11.6 yards gained every time he touched the football. He helped lead the Gators to two national championships, and had he stuck around for his senior campaign, he may have set some school records that would never be broken.
2. Carlos “Cuban Comet” Alvarez
Alvarez suited up for Florida for the three seasons between 1969 and ’71 in an era when teams played only 11 games each year, and only for a max of three seasons. In that time The Comet set multiple records and over his career the man hauled in 172 receptions for a total of 2,563 yards and 19 touchdowns. Of course, numbers are nice, but it is not always the finishing numbers that matter.
First impressions can last forever.
The very first of Alvarez’ 172 catches was a 70-yard bomb from fellow Gators legend, quarterback John Reaves. First impression? Check.
As one of the “Super Sophs” of the then-record-setting 9-1-1, 1969 squad, Alvarez went off with 88 receptions for 1,329 yards and 12 touchdowns. In front of who Gator Nation can be sure was a lovely Queen on Homecoming Day, Reaves found Alvarez fifteen times for a total of 237 yards.
Whether he was motivated to impress the Homecoming Court or simply driven towards greatness, both the 88 receptions on the season and the 15 for the game remain intact as Florida records.
His staggering numbers in an era when rushing the ball was a priority earned him a recent enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame.
One of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the school is now one of only nine Gators to rep it for the Nation in the Hall. He represents far more than simply the Gator Nation, however. After receiving the keys to the cities of both Miami and Tampa as a vital member of South Florida’s Cuban-American community, Alvarez made the members of multiple nations and generations proud.
1. Forrest “Fergie” Ferguson
There will never be enough to say about the exploits of this Gators Great and war hero. The two-way star lined up at both wide receiver and defensive end from 1939-’41, and the reception records he posted stood for decades.
In fact, it wasn’t until another Gator Great from this list, the studly Carlos Alvarez, burst onto the scene that any of his marks were even touched.
Fergie was truly a man who could do it all, and with relish. After earning All-American honors in 1941, he promptly turned in a state of Florida boxing championship and an AAU championship javelin throw, heaving the spear over 203 feet.
After graduating from UF in 1942, Fergie had designs on playing at the professional level, but that was all before Europe exploded into World War II. All of sudden, with “The Axis” blitzing its way across the continent, blitzing quarterbacks just did not seem quite as important.
He probably would have giggled at the boot camp classes offered up by local gyms and fitness centers.
Come D-Day, 1944, the second lieutenant led the 29th Infantry Division across the beaches of Normandy. With his men pinned back by enemy fire, Ferguson led a charge, even firing off a freaking torpedo in order to get the job done. In the process, however, Ferguson made a far larger sacrifice than any football coach would ever ask of him, and the man known affectionately by his teammates by “Fergie” would pass away from the wounds he suffered on the battlefield.
Each year, one member of the University of Florida football team is awarded the Fergie Ferguson Award by the program’s coaching staff.
Befitting a legend, the award is presented to a “senior football player who displays outstanding leadership, character and courage.”