Sturgis bids farewell to the Swamp

Caleb Sturgis waited for his name to echo over the PA system — for it was the last time he would hear it as a player. He stood in the darkness of the tunnel with one fear, he joked. The dangling nightmare was to jog on to the stage of the Swamp for Senior Day ceremonies to be met with one thing: silence. Sturgis, however, shattered the worry immediately...

Ben Hill Griffin's stands roared with cheers for Florida's senior kicker (arguably the loudest of the senior bunch) and he closed the game as the Gator who chalked up the most points for the orange and blue on Saturday.

In UF's 23-0 shutout over JSU, three players were accountable for all the points on the board — all seniors. Sturgis clobbered 11.

Following the game against the Gamecocks, Sturgis said he had no idea it was all graduating men who posted all 23 that afternoon.

"That's awesome," he said. "That's really neat."

The St. Augustine native enrolled at Florida in January of '08 — his senior day was supposed to hit last year. However, a fateful back injury stuck him with a medical redshirt for the '10 season.

But his final year — the one he didn't anticipate spending on the field at Florida — has been his most explosive, by far. Saturday was no exception. His three field goals against Jacksonville State upped him to 66 field goals for his collegiate career — just one shy of Jeff Chandler's school record for the most ever in Florida's history.

"I've had a lot of good memories here," Sturgis said of his last game in the Swamp, "and I'm glad I could finish it off with a pretty good day."

Sturgis' efforts this season have earned him a coveted semi-finalist spot for the Lou Groza National Collegiate Place Kicker Award, which is pinned as the most prestigious college football award for kickers.

The fifth-year senior is 20-24 in field goals this season thus far.

"He's the best kicker in the country," Gators head coach Will Muschamp said. "My confidence in him is through the roof."

The marks for Sturgis' three of four attempted field goals on Saturday were 21 yards, 44 yards and 47 yards. Only one of his attempted field goals fell by the wayside — blocked at the clutches of defensive back Brooks Robinson. Most impressively, of Sturgis' four missed goals of the entire season, three of them have been blocked.

And, in Florida's only blemish of the season — a loss to Georgia — Sturgis was the glimmering bright spot. In the fourth quarter, he chalked up a 50-yard field goal to up his personal record to eight field gals of 50 yards or more. After the Bulldogs loss, he joined the ranks of Chandler and Tim Tebow to become the third Gator in history to post 300 points in his career.

"He's outstanding. We're trying to find (him) an extra year of eligibility," Muschamp joked of the kicker.

As Sturgis looked back at his time in the Swamp, Saturday being his last, he gave thanks that he wasn't greeted by silence when he took the field from the tunnel that one last time.

"I'm very appreciative of everybody out there," he said. "They've meant a lot to me, so I hope I've done a good job of making them happy."

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