In partnership with Football Matters
For me, the love for Florida Gator football was innate. My grandmother worked at the University of Florida, and my mother lived right off-campus and sang in the University Choral Union as a kid. My first game was when I was three years old, and I have vivid memories of my grandmother yelling profanities at the referees throughout my childhood years.
As a family, we would travel for Gator bowl games from Arizona to Louisiana, and at 14 years old, I even saw the Gators win their first National Championship with quarterback Danny Wuerffel and coach Steve Spurrier—Gator legends.
As a senior in highschool, then living in Texas, there was no question in my mind where I was going to college. I was going to be a Gator. I remember my first day on campus after my family left to drive back to Texas. I wasn’t alone. I was home. And that’s because Gator football was a part of childhood, my family, and my soul.
Football is so much more than a sport to me. It has been the foundation of so many wonderful family traditions and memories. And now as a parent, I am passing the love for Florida football on to my children. Two years ago, my husband and I went back to the Swamp with our boys for their first game. (My husband is also a gator, of course… my father wouldn’t have allowed anything else!) And as we walked into the stadium, I burst into tears. I was sharing with my boys something that was deeply important to me and my family.
And now, as my boys grow up, football has come to mean even more. It is a way for my boys to learn perseverance and hard work on a sports team, yes, but off the field as well. They have amazing Gator athletes to look up to who will help shape the young men they become. Danny Wuerffel is now the executive director of Desire Street Ministries serving under-resourced neighborhoods. Tim Tebow created an amazing foundation with many outreach programs from assisting with special needs adoptions, bringing joy to children with life threatening illnesses. And even our current quarterback, Kyle Trask, has an amazing story of perseverance as a back- up quarterback now taking the lead of the Gator team.
These athletes are examples that football teaches more than how to score touchdowns. It teaches how to be a part of a community and a team and the game instills in its players a solid work ethic. These are the Gator legends my boys look up to, and they make me proud to be a Gator.
And so another Saturday is approaching. I love waking up to the brisk fall air, the sound of College Game Day on the TV downstairs, and the feet of my kids running downstairs like it’s Christmas morning to see the Game Day picks. This is what tradition looks like.
And this is why football matters.