With Will Muschamp coaching in his last game in The Swamp as the head coach at Florida, Bullard went to the eye black to send his message. Most players write their hometown or area code, while Tim Tebow made it famous when he wrote a Bible verse on it. Bullard wrote “Mus” on the eye black stuck to his right cheek and “champ” on his left.
The two have grown close since Bullard got to campus in Gainesville. They’ve also been through a lot. Muschamp thought it would be best for Bullard to slide inside and play defensive tackle, and after resisting it at first, the junior has bought in and realized that coach had his best interest in mind when they decided about the move.
Then there’s off the field stuff. Bullard was very close to his grandmother, and she passed away during the fall of his freshman season at Florida. There were many people that supported him in Gainesville and helped him get through it, but Muschamp was near the top of that list.
“I’ve just been through a lot and he’s been there for me,” Jonathan Bullard said. “When I lost my grandmother he was a big supporter. He let me go home as long as I needed. Just little things he did to help me through that whole situation. He’s just been a real good person to me. I respect him a lot. Actually, I love him. I just wanted to show something out of respect to him for everything’s he done for me and show him I appreciate it.”
The love was felt throughout the locker room on Thursday. When the game was over, emotions started to pick up. The players realized that Muschamp wouldn’t coach them again at The Swamp, and he had only one game remaining in his dream job.
Bullard said the players picked him up on their shoulders and chanted “Champ, Champ, Champ.”
“It was very emotional,” Bullard said. “We wanted to have a winning atmosphere and we did. We hollered ‘champ’ the whole time just to show him respect for everything. We’ve been through some hard times but he never gave us on us and we respect him for that.”
But Saturday wasn’t just about Muschamp, and the Florida coach made that clear during the week. The team needed to also send the seniors out right in their last home game. They also needed to give the fans something enjoyable after losing six of the previous eight games in The Swamp.
They accomplished all of those things on Saturday.
“(Muschamp) might not be here next year, but he also was talking about how we need to send the fans out, not just the seniors and himself,” Bullard said. “That’s how we went out. We wanted to put a show on and let the fans have the last win in the Swamp while Champ here and just send everybody out with a good taste here heading into next year.”
Bullard said he will submit paperwork to the NFL to get feedback about his draft stock and whether or not he should forgo his senior year. He said it’s “kind of up in the air” at this point whether he will leave or not because he hasn’t thought much about it during the season.
He will talk to Muschamp about the decision, just like all the juniors on the team say they will, but Muschamp leaving won’t push him to leave early.
“I have to do what’s best for me at the end of the day,” Bullard said. “I wish he was here to finish it out with me. But I’m going to take into consideration whatever he says, that’s going to be who helps me decide what to do. I know he’s not going to encourage me to go just because he’s leaving. I don’t think he would do nothing like that, so it’s just a game time decision.”