First taste of a bitter rivalry

Do you remember the heyday of Florida and Miami?

I don’t.

I’m 24 years old, born in 1988 — just one year after Florida and Miami stopped meeting on the gridiron. Florida and Miami played every year for 49 straight seasons but I wasn’t alive for the “Florida flop” in 1971, Florida ruining Miami’s undefeated national championship in 1983 or any of the other games that older fans can recall, the games that make this rivalry what it is — or what it was.

At 24 years of age, I’m older than every other player on Florida’s roster, only Jeremy Brown is close (he’s 23) and the only player on Florida’s roster that has played against Miami (2008). I’m more than six years older than any of the freshmen on Florida’s roster. Unlike most of those freshmen, I was born in South Florida, Cane country. I heard the taunts of “Florida is afraid to play Miami” and as far as I knew, maybe they were. Florida and Miami have only played five times in my lifetime with Miami winning four-of-five games and having outscored the Gators 146-105 in those games. Of course you eventually grow up and realize the business that is college athletics and it’s easy to see that there is much more to the end of this rivalry that goes beyond anyone “being afraid” to play the other.

I know the importance of the rivalry, I’m not trying to debate the significance of the game on Saturday in Sun Life Stadium (or Joe Robbie Stadium for you historians) holds. But if the team doesn’t feel like this is a rivalry game in comparison to Tennessee, Georgia, LSU or Florida State, can you blame them?

“I don’t really have too many,” Jeff Driskel said when asked if he had any memories of the rivalry. “I saw Ahmad Black tweet the other day one of the scores to a game that we won. That’s about all I know of the history of Florida-Miami. Just worried about this year.”

That’s coming from a kid who grew up in Oviedo, Florida. Driskel was smack dab in the middle of the rivalry and he is too young to remember the glory days of the rivalry.

Players like Max Garcia, who grew up in Georgia,  are even more removed from the series.

“I’m not too aware of it. I grew up in Georgia, so I wasn’t too familiar with Florida-Miami, but guys are really excited to play,” Garcia said. “A couple teammates have friends that are on the team as well. There’s definitely more excitement for this game.”

The fact that Florida is such a talent rich state coupled with Florida and Miami being two of the top teams in the state means that they have their pick of the litter when it comes to picking up that top talent. That is what will make this game special for these young players. For most of the roster, this game will reunite them with teammates, high school rivals and friends that they made during their high school playing days.

“I have a former teammate, Gray Crow, quarterback for them,” Clearwater native Tyler Moore said. “I also knew, didn’t really know him too much, but knew of him, Anthony Chickillo. So a few guys I know.”

“Not really,” Driskel said when asked if he is friends with any of the players at Miami. “I know Anthony Chickillo from the Under Armour game when we were in high school. That’s about it. I don’t really know too many, but I know a lot of guys on our team are from South Florida, so I’m sure there will be a lot of guys that have played together and grew up together.”

While the history of the rivalry may not resonate with the players on either roster, they do recognize that this is more than just a game to a lot of people.

“It’s definitely a big game,” Marcus Maye said. “It’s definitely an in-state game. Muschamp harps on winning the state, so every time there’s an in-state team, we always want to win that game.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC