Addazio Will Remember The Swamp

Steve Addazio will never forget his first time in The Swamp. It came after Urban Meyer had been named the head coach, and Meyer made the decision to name Addazio the offensive line coach soon after. Even as Addazio coaches his final game for the Gators on Saturday before taking over as the head coach at Temple, it's that first walk through The Swamp that will never leave his memory.

Steve Addazio made the short walk from the parking lot to the stadium, crossing Gale Lemerand Drive with a quick pace in his step. He was excited to see Meyer and for the two to be reunited on the same coaching staff.

But first was the stadium. High school state championship games were being played that day, but the sun was still shining bright and reflecting off the bleachers of The Swamp as it usually does.

That's when he saw Meyer. The two shared an embrace of satisfaction. They were finally reunited, and it came at one of the biggest programs in college football.

"I've just really felt fortunate to have a chance to be here," Addazio said. "I remember sitting in the bleachers that day saying, "Wow." This is a great place. It has been a special time."

Meyer and Addazio met each other while coaching at Notre Dame. Meyer coached wide receivers for the Fighting Irish from 1996-2000, while Addazio coached the offensive line, tight ends and special teams from 1999-2001. They worked on the offensive staff, and their friendship continued when they went separate ways.

When Meyer was named the Florida head coach following the 2004 season, he quickly hired Addazio as his offensive line coach.

"We go so far back," Addazio said. "It's hard for me to capsulate that with a few words because I would never do it justice. I just love him. We've been through a lot together. He's a great football coach and great human being. He's done a lot for my family and a lot for this football program.

"He's brought unbelievable moments to The Gator Nation. He makes coming to work every day great. You reflect on that a little bit, and it's powerful stuff. Life is all about relationships and being around people that you want to be around. I couldn't have been around anyone better."

Thursday's practice was one of the final steps to saying goodbye. When practice was over, the team went through "The Senior Tackle,'' an event Meyer put into action when he was hired. For each senior, his position coach will start by speaking to the team about that player's contribution to the team. When he is finished, the senior has a chance to address the team before tackling a dummy.

"That was out there just now, and it's pretty emotional to speak about the seniors and what they've meant here," Addazio said. "When you go through that, it's a pretty emotional thing because you travel through your years with these kids and everything you've been through with them. That always makes this a tough week every year.

"You get close to these kids, and it's hard to say goodbye to them. They're like family to you."

Addazio has more of a connection with the entire offense since he worked as the offensive coordinator for the past two seasons. Instead of feeling close with one position like the other coaches, he has grown with skill players, too.

However, there's no doubting the relationship he has with the offensive line. The senior events were even tougher for Addazio because of the senior offensive lineman the team will be losing. He was coached Mike Pouncey, Carl Johnson, Maurice Hurt and Marcus Gilbert for at least four seasons. His relationship with the offensive lineman is like a family.

"We talk about togetherness in our offensive line room," Addazio said. "And we said goodbye today. We said goodbye to seniors who gave an awful lot to this program and a lot to me. They had wonderful careers here, and we're going to miss them. Gator Nation will miss them."

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