Gator great Carlos Alvarez inducted into Hall of Fame

Almost 40 years after his playing days at the University of Florida, one of the greatest wide receivers in school history was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Carlos Alvarez, a Florida receiver from 1969-71, was announced as an inductee in the National Football Foundation’s 2011 College Football Hall of Fame class on Tuesday morning.

“I’m not known for being out of words when I speak, but when I was told about it this morning I really was speechless,” Alvarez said on a teleconference call. “Quite a moment for me and my family, especially when I think back on the sacrifices my family made to get me here.”

During his three-year career with the Gators, Alvarez rewrote the Florida history books at the receiver position.

In his first season with the Gators as a sophomore – freshmen weren’t allowed to play varsity football back then – Alvarez posted the most impressive single season in school history.

Fans were introduced to him early in his career as “The Cuban Comet” helped spark a thrilling 58-39 win over No. 3 Houston.

On the third play from scrimmage, Alvarez streaked down the sideline and caught a perfect pass from quarterback John Reaves for a 78-yard touchdown pass.

That play was the beginning of a spectacular season – and a spectacular career – for Alvarez.

“Frankly, my whole stay at the University of Florida was not quite as successful as that year,” he said. “But I felt every year, I thoroughly enjoyed playing.”

In 1969, Alvarez caught a still-standing-school-record 88 passes. Despite being limited by a knee injury in his junior and senior seasons, he finished with a school-record 172 catches, a record that stood until Andre “Bubba” Caldwell ended his career with 185 career receptions in 2007.

Alvarez is still the school record holder in career receiving yardage with 2,563. He also holds the school record for receptions in a game, recording 15 against Miami in 1969.

“The first thing that crosses my mind really about the honor is all the people that helped me get here,” he said. “I know I worked hard both athletically and scholastically to do well, but gosh what an incredible supporting group I had from my incredible family, to so many people at the University of Florida, and of course my unbelievable teammates.”

Alvarez said he was part of one of the most creative offensive game plans in that Houston game in 1969, and he credited his quarterback with a great deal of his success.

Despite his numbers dipping in the transition from a wide-open, pro-style offense under Ray Graves to the veer option under Doug Dickey, Alvarez said he couldn’t have put up the numbers he did without Reaves.

“I wouldn’t be out here without John Reeves,” Alvarez said. “My name and his name are forever tied. What an unbelievable quarterback he was, and friend. I certainly remember him at this moment.”

With his induction Tuesday, Alvares became the sixth Florida player inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, joining Dale Van Sickel (1927-29, inducted 1975), Steve Spurrier (1964-66, inducted 1986), Jack Youngblood (1968-70, inducted 1992), Emmitt Smith (1987-89, inducted 2006) and Wilber Marshall (1980-1983, inducted 2008.

Charles Bachman (1928-32, inducted 1978), Ray Graves (1960-69, inducted 1990) and Doug Dickey (1970-78, inducted 2003) are former Gators head coaches in the Hall of Fame.

Alvarez is one of 12 players and two coaches inducted in the 2011 class.

Interestingly enough, former Florida State cornerback Deion Sanders is also an inductee in the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame class.

Alvarez is a noted academician who was a three-time Academic All-American, is in the Academic Hall of Fame, and graduated from Duke University School of Law summa cum laude after his time at Florida.

Sanders, meanwhile is known for playing in the 1989 Sugar Bowl against Auburn, where he recorded a game-saving interception to preserve a 13-7 win, despite not attending classes or taking tests for his entire previous semester.

The incident later led to the “Deion Sanders rule,” requiring that college athletes remain academically eligible in order to play in bowl games.

“I thought the University, the academics, were superb,” Alvarez said. “I really did have the total student-athlete experience.”

Gator Country columnist Buddy Martin will have an in-depth story on Alvares later in the evening.