Monday, 02 August 2010 09:58
If the University of Florida football team plays against their opponents as fiercely as they do each other, Gator fans are in for a wild season.
Story by Jennette Holzworth; photos by Rodney Rogers
Fans got to preview the 2010 squad Friday night at the third-annual Gator Charity Challenge, an intra-squad competition that posed six teams head-to-head while representing one of six Shands-affiliated charities.
The event consisted of four strength and agility contests—Gator Push, Farmer’s Hold, an obstacle course and Tug-of-War, marking the end of the team’s off-season conditioning program, which is aimed at getting the squad in shape for the start of preseason practice (Aug. 5).
Each charity hosted a table on the concourse, where fans could visit to pledge donations while learning about the organization. Treats like candy and popsicles were also given away at the booths. But the real goods were on the gridiron.
The lower alumni stands filled as each team was announced by an honorary captain—mostly children who were hoisted onto player’s shoulders and carried around the field. And while the event was good fun for an even better cause, that didn’t stop the UF football team from stepping up the competition.
“They came in motivated,” says Scott Holsopple, assistant director of strength and conditioning. “It’s a combination of bringing them together and creating awareness. It’s an opportunity for them to come together for a great cause.”
Players pushed a 750-pound sled 53 yards from sideline to sideline in the Gator Push, held 500-pound dumbbells in each arm for as long as they stand to in the Farmer’s Hold and, in the obstacle course, raced between cones and tackled dummies over elevated pads.
The six best individual times from the events were cumulated to create a team score, and points were awarded to each team based on how they placed in that event.
The first-place winner with 14 points was Team STOP! Children’s Cancer, which finished with the widest margin of the competition. The team consisted of Linebacker Lorenzo Edwards (the captain) and two highly rated incoming freshmen: defensive-end Ronald Powell, the Rivals.com No. 1 overall rated prospect, and cornerback Joshua Shaw, who was rated No. 3 for his position.
Team Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, captained by linebacker AJ Jones, and Team March of Dimes, captained by defensive-end Duke Lemmens, tied for second place with 11 points, while defensive tackle Terron Sanders (American Heart Association), safety Ahmad Black (Shands Cancer Hospital) and defensive tackle Brandon Antwine (American Cancer Society) finished fourth through sixth with 10, nine and eight points, respectively.
Black says the team not only did a great job of representing the charities, but representing what they worked for this summer and what they hope to accomplish.
“Tonight showed our energy,” he says. “This is the fun stuff—this is what we work for. I feel good about this season. I feel we’re as close as we’ve ever been.”
The Gators kickoff their quest for another National Championship on Sept. 4 against Miami University (Ohio). Fans can catch a glimpse of the team and a shot at an autograph at Football Fan Day on Aug. 15 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
See what the line up was here.