Catching up with ex-Gator Errict Rhett

B.J. BENNETT Senior Editor

You know Errict Rhett, the Florida Gator. While in Gainesville, Rhett broke Emmitt Smith’s career rushing record, finishing with 4,163 yards. One of the program’s all-time greats, he led the Gators in rushing each of his four seasons and was a key playmaker and leader for some of Steve Spurrier’s best teams.

You know Errict Rhett the NFL star. In seven professional seasons, Rhett, who was selected in the second round of the 1994 NFL Draft, rushed for 4,143 yards and 29 touchdowns. In his rookie season with Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he rushed for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. The following year, he ran for 1,207 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Errict Rhett has long had a knack for giving. He gave West Virginia fits as the MVP of the 1994 Sugar Bowl, rushing for over 100 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He gave his all in NFL stints with Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cleveland. He gave on-field tips to young players as the running backs coach for Piper High School in Sunrise, Fla.

His biggest and most important gifts, however, the ones he cherishes most, have come away from the field.

Post-football, Rhett has pursued various non-profit goals and has worked extremely hard to make a difference in the community. With his foundation,, Rhett has helped put young people through college, built and furnished homes for those less fortunate, and raised funds for a variety of different causes. He is currently hosting a raffle, sponsored by Mercedes Benz of Tampa Bay, for a brand new 2010 Mercedes Benz S550. For more information or to buy a ticket go to

“The motivation came at a young age – I always liked to give back,” he explained. “I was just one of those guys who believed if you gave back you are going to receive.”

Proud of his degree from the University of Florida, Rhett takes great pride in the work his foundation does to help young people get into college. Rhett understands and appreciates the opportunity a college education can offer and stands today as a strong proponent and advocate for continued education.

“We have so many kids who have great grades and they are doing everything possible they can do. But unfortunately their financial means don’t line up. We raise enough capital to give away 100 to 200 scholarships a year. Our scholarships range from $1,000 to $5,000. It is a great cause and it feels good knowing you are giving to kids who deserve it,” Rhett added.

You don’t hear many star athletes speak out about the importance of education, but Rhett, even during his career at UF, was well aware of the significance.

“Education is everything. One thing I can tell you about playing football at the University of Florida and one thing you realize playing in the SEC is that you are one play away. I actually realized that when I played for the Browns as after one play my career was over,” Rhett recalled. “That is when your education kicks in. We have so many young people these days and at the first sign of trouble on the financial side they come home. I want kids to go off to school and not have to worry about these things. We have a needy fund that is for kids who run into instant trouble. We want kids to just not have to worry about finances and get good grades.”

Despite his NFL success and the spotlight that comes with the professional ranks, Rhett’s best memories are from his days at Florida, an experience he wants today’s young people to be able to have as well.

“The best years of your life are probably from 18-23 years old,” he said. “You have the most fun of your life and make life-long friends during this time. We want to make everyone aware of what we have. I want you to experience everything I experienced at the University of Florida.”

Extending the educational careers of many isn’t the only work Rhett does in the community. The owner of a construction company, he builds homes for those in need, something he takes great pride in.

“We give people custom houses in the city and it is unreal,” he beamed. “We don’t just put down a down payment, we do everything.”

Though he isn’t required to help others or be so giving with his hard-earned resources and valuable time, Rhett feels an obligation to give back and help others who may be struggling to make ends meet. He believes other athletes should be more active in their respective communities.

“It is a responsibility and it is unfortunate that we don’t have a lot of people doing that,” Rhett said. “I watched my mother work so hard and it has always been a passion of mine to give back. I just literally enjoy giving. I don’t know where it comes from. It feels so good to me, especially when you give to someone who literally appreciates it. Just to see the joy in their eyes…”

One current Florida Gator who has adopted the principles of volunteerism and helping others is All-American quarterback Tim Tebow. Rhett is very proud of the work Tebow has done during his Gator career and has watched as the college football great has handled himself with maturity well beyond his years.

“Tim is a special guy. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His mother is a great person. His father is a great person,” Rhett said. “When you come from people like that you can’t help but be a terrific guy. Sure he will go down as being one of the greatest college football players ever but he is one of the greatest people ever. I meet a lot of great football players but you don’t meet great people too often. He is special. He has nothing but love in his heart for people.”

Tebow, who Rhett obviously respects and admires greatly, played while the Gator Nation held its breath over the weekend. Recovering from a concussion, Tebow led Florida into Tiger Stadium and came away with a 13-3 victory over LSU. Talking with one of the all-time Gator greats, we had to get some football insight, of course.

“I do believe that right there,” Rhett said when asked if he thought UF would win the national championship. “Their toughest game probably came this week. LSU really couldn’t run with these guys. They were supposed to come in there and really light Florida up. It seems like everyone is playing Florida very conservative and playing them not to lose bad. You can’t go into a game like that. You have to play a team like Florida more aggressively. I don’t see anyone else challenging Florida after LSU. Right now I don’t see anyone else that can compete with Florida.”

A great Florida Gator, but a better person, Rhett is working hard to improve the lives of others. He is teaching people and showing people that struggles don’t have to result in a three-and-out. He is giving back, and giving back a lot, in an attempt to share some of the experiences that helped mold him into the man he is today with other people. Errict Rhett got to live his dreams. Now he’s helping those less fortunate get to do the same.

“I have had the opportunity to change hundreds of lives since I left the university. I ran the ball as hard as I could, but everything I learned while I was there has helped me so much now,” he added.

The 1,000-yard seasons, the touchdowns, the big plays – it’s hard to forget Errict Rhett the football player. As he makes a name for himself away from the game, those aren’t the traits Errict Rhett wants you to remember most.

Learn more about Errict’s work by visiting To help his foundation, visit