He has played in worse, too.
After reminding everyone in the room for interviews on Monday morning that he was from the north, the Michigan native recalled a playoff game in high school where it was six degrees outside and snow falling from the sky.
“You really didn't want to hit the ground because it was so cold that you didn't want to get back up,” Valdez Showers said with a smile.
So when Florida got onto the field for warm ups after a lengthy delay on Saturday night, Showers was used to the conditions. When it started to rain again just before kickoff, it didn’t phase him. And when he caught the opening kickoff after Idaho went with a pooch kick to avoid star returner Andre Debose, Showers was ready for action.
The key to playing in the wet conditions, according to Showers, is the footing. The field drained well before Florida was back on it to warm up, but the shower before kickoff put standing water back on the field. Showers caught the opening kickoff in front of the Idaho sideline, and when the Vandals’ return team sprinted to that side of the field, Showers reversed field with Debose in front of his as a blocker.
The pooch kick wasn’t a surprise. Florida worked on it all week in practice, knowing that teams will try to keep the ball away from Debose this year, especially since he’s one kickoff return for a touchdown away from being in sole possession of the SEC record with five.
By putting Showers where he was, it still puts the ball in the hands of a dangerous returner.
“We were planning it all week,” Showers said. “We knew they didn't want to kick to Debose just because he could break the record or anything. It's history and everything, so we was kind of anticipating the sky kick. We'd been practicing it all week."
As he reversed field and sprinted for the Florida sideline, there were only two Idaho players that had an angle on him. On a normal day, Showers would’ve considered cutting back to the middle of the field and trying to find open space on his way to the end zone. The wet conditions changed that.
“If the field was better, I was definitely looking to cut back,” Showers said. “But I knew there was a chance I would slip so I was just trying to get as much yardage as I could.”
After the return, many of his teammates sprinted to celebrate on the sideline with Showers. As they made their way to the sideline and watched the Florida offense line up on the field, the players were frustrated to see a member of the Florida support staff make his way onto the field and notify the referees of the lightning in the surrounding area.
“Not again,” Showers recalled thinking.
Soon the team found itself back in the locker room, knowing that a cancellation was even more possible than in the first delay. It wasn’t much longer until the game was suspended, and the team awaits a decision on whether or not it will finish the game against Idaho.
That means there’s a chance that Showers’ kick return might not even go into the season stats.
“Oh yeah, I know,” Showers said with a sheepish grin while shaking his head.
Even with the disappointment comes some unforgettable moments from Saturday. Despite the weather and the threat of lightning, the Florida players saw a pleasant surprise when they made it out of the locker room and started to warm up for the game.
The stands had many more people in them than expected, especially in the student section.
“To me, that was really the highlight of the night,” Showers said. “When we came out of the tunnel again and I saw all the fans there, it really shocked me. I know I can speak for the team. That surprised us a lot. We were definitely thankful they were out there supporting us.”
The disappointment of the weather pushes Florida’s season opener back to this Saturday against Eastern Michigan at 4 p.m. Until then, the Florida team has one more week to count the moments and wait until they can get back into The Swamp.
“Missing the first game, a lot of us were bummed about it,” Showers said. “So we're definitely looking forward to this second game and really trying to get all the nerves and all the hard work up out of us and go out there and perform.”