This is the third of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
We all have them -- players that helped shape our fandom either through the way they played or the people they were or both. Here are a few of ours, and we welcome yours in the comments.
QB: Despite what you might guess, my favorite Gator quarterback is not Tim Tebow. It is, and might always end up being, Danny Wuerffel. I enjoy the spread option as much or more than the next guy, but nothing for me beats the beauty of Steve Spurrier's offense with Wuerffel at the helm. Give me him tossing a fade route over an option run any day.
RB: Going back to the mid-'90s, I have to go with Fred Taylor. He could put the offense on his back when the rest wasn't quite working correctly, and he was the best Florida back I've seen at breaking through contact. Always a hard runner every time.
WR: As awesome as Chris Doering, Reidel Anthony, and Ike Hilliard all were, I have to go with Percy Harvin. I've never seen anyone with both his speed and elusiveness, the combination of which I believe is banned in eight states.
DL: Alex Brown, because anyone who can collect five sacks against Tennessee is tops in my book.
LB: My favorite Gator linebacker so far is Mike Peterson. Jevon Kearse got all the headlines, but Peterson always ended up with more tackles. It also didn't hurt that my brother's favorite at the time was Johnny Rutledge, leading me to pick someone else. Brandon Siler's up there, but his foolishly leaving early hurts him in my eyes.
DB: It's a tie between Tony George and Reggie Nelson. Both had a flair for making a big play at just the right time, whether by getting an interception or just leveling somebody. If anything, Nelson is ahead because he was the most important player on the 2006 national championship team. The corners that year were undersized (Ryan Smith) and burn-prone (Reggie Lewis), and that team would have lost more than just one game without Nelson cleaning up their messes.
- - -
cocknfire: I don't actually need separate players for QB, RB and WR when it comes to my all-time favorite at South Carolina, because my choice can do it all: Syvelle Newton. The ultimate slash, Newton passed for 2,474 yards and 20 TDs; had 673 yards and three scores as a wideout and rushed for 786 yards and 10 TDs. He also played defense. As Newton's scrambling ability helped spark the 2006 Gamecocks while Blake Mitchell was being Blake Mitchell, Steve Spurrier once openly wondered what might have been had Newton not automatically decided to move to wide receiver once the Head Ball Coach arrived on campus. (Of course, Spurrier often seemed one scramble short of a coronary on the sideline when Newton was in.)
Close seconds would be RB Cory Boyd, who at times carried the team, or WR Sidney Rice, who often regarded defenders as part of his uniform and caught a pass no matter what coverage he faced.
Defense: Eric Norwood. A case can be made that he single-handedly won the N.C. State game in 2009, among many other accomplishments both athletic and academic.
As for my favorites in the SEC: I always liked Chris Leak. One of my earliest memories of him was not good for my teams; he threw six touchdowns in a 48-14 annihilation of South Carolina in 2004. And while he never seemed to reach the heights games like that suggested he was capable of, there was still something about him that I liked. Cadillac Williams is someone with considerably more talent who also ranks among my favorites.
And, yes, I liked Tim Tebow (despite what some Florida fans might have thought). I truly enjoyed watching him play -- except against South Carolina -- admired his standing for his faith (and mine) on and off the field and rarely if ever saw him hit a false note despite having the entire world watching his every move. I was often critical of the media phenomenon that surrounded him, but tried very carefully to always be respectful of Tebow himself -- well, as respectful as I was to any player. To me, he was more than just a great player, he was also a great man.