Van Jefferson making homecoming at Tennessee

Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson will return to his old stomping grounds when the Gators take on Tennessee this Saturday. The only player on Florida’s roster from the state — Jefferson is from Brentwood, Tennessee — and he will be just under three hours from the place he calls home.

With his mom, his sisters, his 2-year-old daughter and many of his high school friends making the short trip to Knoxville, he will have plenty of support behind him. Well, sort of.

Naturally, most of Jefferson’s friends attend Tennessee or are Vols fans, so they may not be sending him and his team the best wishes, at least not this week.

“They talk a little trash,” he said. “But you know, I’ve gotta block them out this week. I’ve gotta lock in, so I’m really not worried about that … I won’t respond back. I just let them say what they’ve got to say and that’s it.”

For some, reuniting with friends and family could be a distraction, but Jefferson doesn’t look at it that way at all.

It will be the first time he’s seen many of them in a while, and he will enjoy it, but when the lights come on, nothing else matters but competing with his team and getting back on track in SEC play.

“It’s just another opportunity to go out there and get a win,” he said. “Of course, I’m happy to go back to see some of my friends, but other than that, I’m going in there on a mission. I don’t think it’s any pressure at all.”

Despite living so close by, this will be Jefferson’s first time in Neyland Stadium. The Rebels never went to Tennessee in his time at Ole Miss, but he does not lack experience in hostile environments, having played at places like Alabama and LSU in his career.

Still, with it being the first road game of the season, at night, at one of the craziest places in college football, he has to be sure to keep his mindset in check. That’s where having his family there could make the biggest difference.

Jefferson’s daughter hasn’t seen him play since his family came down for very first game of the season. She was there to celebrate his first touchdown as a Gator, and she will be the one he looks to when he needs to calm his nerves this week.

“I think just relax,” Jefferson said. “That’s the most part of it. You know, just not getting over hyped about it … I’m pretty sure when the game comes, I’ll be pretty pumped and have a lot of adrenaline going, so I’ve just gotta keep myself calm. I’ll probably just talk to my mom and my little girl and I’ll be OK.”

Bailiegh Carlton
A lifelong sports fan, Bailiegh Carlton knew from a young age that she wanted to work in sports in some capacity. Before transferring to the University of Florida to study journalism, she played softball at Gulf Coast State College. She then interned for Gator Country for three years as she worked toward her degree. After graduation, Bailiegh decided to explore other opportunities in the world of sports, but all roads led her right back here. In her time away, she and her husband welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. When she isn't working, she can almost always be found snuggled up with sweet baby Ridley, Cody and her four fur babies.