The Florida Gators will wear special “swamp green,” alligator print uniforms this week. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve seen them and the visceral reaction they received when Florida and Nike released them on Monday.
You may not know, however, how long these uniforms have been in the process and what the back-story is to the jersey, how the players reacted and the meaning to them.
It started 18 months ago. As one of Nike’s premier schools the clothing company approached Florida about doing a one-time jersey. Jim McElwain thought it would be “pretty cool” and the process began. McElwain and Florida didn’t give Nike any restrictions outside of some opinions of players.
“About 18 months ago Nike came to us as one of their elite schools and wanted to do a one-time, alternate uniform and tell the story of the Gator,” McElwain explained.
Sophomore Chauncey Gardner was still a recruit then, getting ready to enroll, but he remembers the beginning of the process as well.
“Coach Mac really explained it was older guys who have been here. And we were just asking like a little bit more swag, add something to it,” Gardner said. “He did what he had to do. Coach Mac is one of the best coaches to me. He did what he had to do and he came through, like he always do.”
The players were ecstatic to get the new uniforms, getting their first look at them when everyone else did on Twitter.
The design is a far cry from anything Florida has ever worn. It’s the first time in school history that the football team will stray away from the school colors of orange and blue. The “swamp green” color is a muted, pale green and the jersey is accented with a bright orange. In another first, the Gator head logo will appear on the right side of the helmet with the player’s number on the left side.
The swamp green color runs throughout the jersey. There is an alligator skin print on the jersey itself with plain swamp green pants and socks. The shoes are also alligator skin and span Nike’s complete football cleat inventory. The bright Nike swoosh pops in orange, as do the shiny chrome orange plates on the bottom of the cleats.
The jerseys were met with a lot of criticism.
“Just the amount of hate mail I get already it really tripled when all the sudden we put out the new uniforms,” McElwain joked.
But the target audience isn’t boosters or fans. The whole idea behind having the alternate uniforms was to do something special for the players. They’re excited to be the only team to ever wear these one-time deal uniforms. They like the swag that comes with the uniforms and, most importantly, the high school prospects that Florida is recruiting to join the team loved the new look as well.
“The excitement of our team, first of all. The response recruiting and ultimately the demographic we’re looking at, man, the excitement has been unbelievable and the response has been great,” McElwain said. “I know they’re looking forward to it.”