the ol' ball coach & the swamp - florida gators
By George Somerville
People ask me how I got into college football. At that point I usually drift off in to a semi conscious state to ramble on about Tim Tebow and Reggie Bush. Football for me started in the mid 2000’s watching those great USC and Florida teams. So it’s always been a dream to visit the Swamp and the Coliseum.
Today I ticked the Swamp off my list.
Passing through Gainesville on my way to Jacksonville was too good an opportunity to pass up. Being the geek I am, I am no stranger to standing outside locked football stadiums, peering through gates and taking selfies of impressive but yet inaccessible entrances. I have low expectations when it comes to visiting football stadia.
But my visit to the Ben Hill Griffin stadium turned into something special. And it might not have happened without some misfortune.
My brother and I are doing a football tour of the Deep South. We stopped in Gainesville for some lunch and to empty our wallets at the Florida Gator store. Around that time my brother took unwell and headed back to the car. Being the caring sibling I am, I took a wander around the stadium.
At gate 18 there seemed to be a thoroughfare that students were using as a shortcut. I followed and to my amazement it led me in to the stadium. As it transpires, the stadium is open to all. It acts as a place for exercise, for a walk or some peaceful contemplation sitting in the stands. It is an excellent idea and is used consistently by the students.
I found this amazing. That I could wander in, off the street and sit in the stands of a stadium I had seen so often on TV. A stadium which has experienced so many incredible experiences. I suspect it is unique in sports, but such a simple idea.
So I sat in the sunshine, taking it all in. And being the tourist that I am, I took photos. Around that time my brother rejoined me and he took photos. We are tourists, albeit of the sporting variety.
And then it got a little unreal. As I was loading some of my photos on Instagram (it was really an Instagram moment), I heard a voice say hello. I looked up and it appeared that Steve Spurrier was standing beside me. In fact it was Steve Spurrier. In what was one of the most bizarre moments of my life, Steve Spurrier was exercising in the section that I was sitting in.
He asked where we were from. When I said Scotland, he talked at length about visiting Scotland and playing golf in Edinburgh and St Andrews. I wanted to talk football and Coach wanted to talk golf.
And then he was off. To play golf.
My visit to the Swamp was significantly more than I expected. Significantly. And by some distance.
How many times can you say you talked about golf in Scotland with one of the best coaches that college football has ever known.
It was surreal. In a good way.
George is currently on a college football tour of the deep south of America. With fourteen destinations in total, see reports of his previous stops here.
Feature Image Credit: StadiumJourney.com
COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER
A GLASWEGIAN LIVING IN LONDON, GEORGE IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL FAN WHO FOLLOWS THE ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE. HE PROVIDES CFB CONTENT FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND IS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.