At the Mark Bostick Golf Course Friday the Florida Players Network meets for what has become an annual tradition, a golf tournament that’s part of what is being billed as the “spring spectacular” by the FPN.
There are hugs from old teammates, glad-handing over a catered Waffle House breakfast. One former Gators ribs another one about losing “16-pounds” while others speak of old injuries that have flamed back up as they approach middle age. Gainesville native and former Florida running back Terry Jackson is one of the stars of the show on this day wearing a bright orange shirt only eclipsed in luminosity by his 1,000-watt smile as he walks through Bostick’s dining area speaking to some of his former teammates. The words on the back of his hat read “Gators helping Gators,” and it’s what this event is truly about.
“One of us could have a foundation event and that’s great,” Jackson said. “But when we all get together and do something for people I think it sends a message to the future Gators and past Gators that we’re more than just about championships on the field, but you know to do good, that’s what it’s about in your life, to continue to give back.”
A 4-8 season does nothing to dull the enthusiasm is the room. Jackson called that a “blip,” saying with confidence that the guys who wore the orange and blue will support the Gators no matter what.
Ideally, Jackson sees the spring spectacular weekend events including the golf tournament; blue carpet gala and former players flag football game as something marked on the calendar by all former Gators. Foundation manager Kimberly Haynes shares his dream, and also has loftier goals for the organization’s future philanthropically.
“We definitely want to be a resource incubator for all of our former players,” Haynes says. “And you really want to expand it out to the different sports, different letterwinners. So we really want to expand membership, but we also want to be able to impart our philanthropy throughout the community.”
She’s pleased that FPN has achieved its goal of becoming a network for former players, so far, and promises that the organization is still “growing by leaps and bounds.” In its second year Haynes is committed to pushing the players and appealing to their competitive nature to reach new heights as an organization through corporate sponsorship and increased community involvement. It comes with its pitfalls and challenges, but in the end, FPN’s mission is worth the work put in to achieve its goals.
“One of our core missions is the help those who are distressed, either financially or they’re needing some kind of job search opportunities,” Haynes said. “The blessing about it is to see so many guys who want to be involved with the organization and how many people in the community want to give back and become apart of it because they see these former guys that they used to see on the field every Saturday are really, really wanting to give back to the community.