Growing up in Deerfield Beach, Florida Brandon Powell was in Miami Hurricane country but it wasn’t the Canes he would tune into every Saturday. It wasn’t Florida either. Powell’s entire family were Florida State fans. He made sure to use the past tense because during his senior season he did the unthinkable for someone who grew up rooting for Bobby Bowden and the Seminoles. He pledged to play for their archrival, the Florida Gators.
Powell arrived in Gainesville in 2014. The Gators lost to FSU 24-19. Then 27-2 and finally 31-13 last year in Tallahassee. He’s had to hear about it for three years from his friends that play for the Seminoles and his friends back home that still root for them.
“I’m from Florida. I know a lot of kids that play for Florida State. People back home they like Florida State. I grew up a Florida State fan. It’s number one for me,” Powell said when asked where the FSU rivalry ranks with others that Florida has.
Powell is 0-3 against the Seminoles. In the 59-year history only three Gators senior classes have gone winless against Florida State compared to 11 senior classes at FSU that can’t say they beat Florida.
Its’ a point of pride across the state and having played and coached at Miami, now interim UF head coach Randy Shannon couldn’t help but take a shot at the Noles in his post UAB press conference.
“It’s a long rivalry, it’s the state. Between two schools — and I don’t mean to say this in the wrong way — but one school was an all boys school, one school was an all girls school,” Shannon said. “So it’s a lot of rivalry going on in this game. So it’s going to be a great game.”
The fact that both teams will limp into the game with identical 4-6 records doesn’t diminish the meaning of the game. It’s still Florida-Florida State. It’s still six national championships and six Heisman Trophy winners between them. It’s still the Choke at Doak, the Fifth Quarter in the French Quarter, Bowden, Spurrier and Ron Zook Field.
For the Gators, it’s also about sending their seniors out the right way. Florida will honor 15 seniors next Saturday in the Swamp. That class has been through the ringer. They committed to Will Muschamp, bought in with Jim McElwain, and yet, the coach they’ll walk out and embrace Saturday was at Arkansas when they signed their national letters of intent four years ago.
The younger players know what they’ve been through and they’re going to make sure that they do everything in their power to make sure that this senior class isn’t the fifth in Florida history to go winless against the Noles.
“That would mean everything,” Powell said of beating Florida State. “This game, Florida State, beat them. It would mean everything to me.”