The year 2006 has been a very successful year for the Florida Gators. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Florida Gators football team upset the Ohio State Buckeyes 41 – 14 to capture the National Championship. The Florida Gators became the only team in the history of the NCAA to be the reigning National Champion in football and basketball simultaneously. But even more Gators than that have had success this year, let’s take a look.
The Florida Gators were one of those teams that got hot right at the right time. Not many people remember but the Gators didn’t actually win their division in the SEC during the regular season, the Tennessee Volunteers did. But the Gators stormed through the SEC Championship and NCAA Tournament and made it look easy. Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer were all so impressive their stock rose high enough that they would’ve been lottery picks if they left college early. I could rattle off all kinds of impressive stats. Like before this year Florida lost 60% of their offense to the NBA draft. Joakim Noah broke the record for most blocks in a Championship game in one half. In their 11 game winning streak to end the season Florida beat Kentucky by 15, LSU (a Final Four team), South Carolina (the winner of the NIT), a #1 seed Villanova and UCLA and only one game in the streak was close.
Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams
Many people didn’t think Jason Williams or Udonis Haslem would make it in the NBA. Jason Williams came on to the scene with the Sacramento Kings and had some flashy moves. But Jason had a tendency to turn over the ball a ton and take ill-advised shots. Nobody believed he’d ever be the point guard on a Championship team. Udonis Haslem on the other hand had difficulty even making it into the league. Despite being on the All-SEC team multiple times and being part of the first Florida team to make it to the NCAA tournament four consecutive years Haslem went undrafted mainly because they said he was too small to be a power forward. Udonis Haslem went overseas and played basketball for a year before finally getting a chance to play with the Miami Heat. Today Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams both have NBA Championship rings which they won with the Miami Heat this year.
Unfortunately only one NBA team can win the Championship and Mike Miller hasn’t come close with the Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies. However, this past season Mike Miller did take home a trophy as he won the Sixth Man Award. In this day and age when you have deep teams like the Pistons, Spurs, and Mavericks it’s important to have someone who can produce off the bench which is exactly what Mike Miller did averaging 13.7 points per game in limited time. Not only did Miller produce from the bench but he did it willingly. Mike Miller was second on the Grizzlies in scoring when they asked him to take a backseat and come off the coach. Probably ninety percent of the league would’ve complained but Mike Miller told his coach “yes sir, whatever is best for the team.”
If you look at David Eckstein’s stats for the season nothing really sticks out. But David Eckstein is one of those guys who you can’t judge by stats. He’s scrappy and gritty and gives 100% on every play. Also he might not have the most impressive stats in 2006 but he does have a World Championship and a World Series MVP.
I know what you’re thinking; Emmitt Smith didn’t play football in 2006. That’s true; Emmitt Smith is retired from football. But Emmitt Smith has not retired from dancing! That’s right Emmitt Smith dominated off the court with his performance on Dancing with the Stars where he beat out the likes of Jerry Springer, Joey Lawrence, and Mario Lopez.
Rex Grossman and Alex Brown
A lot of people have been dogging Rex Grossman lately but you can’t deny that he was the MVP of the NFL for the first seven weeks of the season. Grossman has cooled off now but the bottom line is he’s the starting quarterback of the number one seed and favorite to win the NFC. Rex Grossman hasn’t done it alone though, when he does falter the defense picks him up in a big way, sometimes even single handedly winning the game and one of the big parts of that defense is Alex Brown.
Reche Caldwell, Chad Jackson and Jabar Gaffney
The Florida Gators’ receivers have a history of being great in college but not so great in the NFL. However, a trio of Florida receivers has found themselves on the New England Patriots with a shot at winning a Super Bowl. Reche Caldwell led the Patriots in receiving yards and touchdowns. Rookie Chad Jackson was second on the team in touchdowns even though he played limited time since he’s a rookie. Jabar Gaffney doesn’t have big numbers for the regular season but he came through with 104 yards in the Patriots first round win against the New York Jets.
Like I said the Florida football team has won the national championship and like the basketball team they did it in impressive fashion. The Ohio State offense was average 36 points and 409 yards per game but Florida’s defense held them to 7 points and 79 yards. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith was held to 4/14 and 35 yards. The Ohio State offense was held to the fewest yards in BCS Championship history and Troy Smith the lowest QB rating. Meanwhile Ohio State’s defense gave up just 10 points per game before the Gators drop 41 on them.
In college sports coaches get more credit since they are constantly dealing with players leaving and new players arriving and they should. Florida had two great young coaches lead their respective teams to the National Championship. Only three coaches in college basketball history have been in the Final Four as a player and won a Championship as a coach: Florida’s Coach Billy Donovan, Bob Knight and Dean Smith. Also only Bob Knight has won a championship in fewer games and at a younger age than Billy Donovan. As for Urban Meyer after just 2 seasons Urban Meyer has a 22 – 4 overall record with a 6 – 0 record against Georgia, FSU, and Tennessee. Meyer has also won one SEC Championship and one National Championship. It you want to know how good that is just compare it to the Ol’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier’s first two seasons. The Gators were 19 – 4 overall and 4 – 2 against Georgia, FSU, and Tennessee in Spurrier’s first two seasons and they won one SEC Championship but no National Championship. So after his first two seasons Urban Meyer is actually doing better than Steve Spurrier.