Certainly there are times when Jalen Tabor has a fiery opinion about something going on in the world outside of football. Right or wrong, he has a voice and in this country he uses his freedom to share it. On Twitter he goes head strong into subjects dealing with college life, the life of a football player, and the rest of the world around him.
As a star football player, the one thing that Tabor wants is to be a voice for young people and although he isn’t perfect in the Twitter-verse, he wants to share the right things to the young people reading what he posts.
“I always want to be embraced,” Tabor said on one of his many encounters with the media on Tuesday in w whirlwind tour of New York that was set up by Florida. “I just feel like a lot of kids will listen to what I have to say and if I can help a kid out and change just one kid’s life that would be awesome.
“Some athletes decide they don’t want to do it, and this is a chance to connect with the fans and connect with people that love watching you play through social media and through the media. You don’t have to say anything personal, but if you go to an interview and answer a question, (the public) may want to ask the same question. You can show that hard work pays off. They just need a motivation and hopefully I can be that. That was my whole goal behind it and I feel like God put me in this position for a reason
The New York trip was just part of what almost appears like a media campaign by Tabor’s advisors. He’s a guy that launched his own Media Day when he wasn’t included with teammates in Hoover, Alabama earlier in the month. He took to Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope to talk to the fans, not out of spite, but just because he likes to do it.
He is in the minority, but one of the few that really enjoys being in front of the media and it appears he wants to have the tables turned one day.
“I’m really comfortable in front of the media,” he said. “That’s what I like to do. If you ask anybody that really knows me, they will tell you I like to tell stories and like to talk a lot. This can help me in the long run, opening up doors outside of football.
“If I use the media the right way I can set myself for life after football.”
Something that has sparked the fire for this particular contest is that he was suspended for the game last year. Maybe the most memorable game for Florida fans in recent memory with the heroic fourth quarter comeback to seal the victory in The Swamp.
Tabor says sitting out that game was a huge wake up call for him.
“That was one of the biggest lessons in life I learned, not being able to play against Tennessee last year,” he said. “That changed me as a young man and made me grow up a lot.”
For all the supposed ‘smack talk’ he has delved out, Tabor feels like it isn’t that at all. And who can blame him?
Florida has won the last 11 contests against the Volunteers dating back to 2004. There have been three new head coaches since then and none have lost to Tennessee. Even that year was a controversial win for the Vols with a late unsportsmanlike foul called on Dallas Baker that allowed the home team Vols to come from behind and win.
There is something to be said about how Tabor feels.
“I’m really not talking smack, it’s just really how I feel about a team that hasn’t beaten us in 11 years,” he said. “I have all the respect, but it has nothing to do with how good they are or bad they are. Regardless of that I feel if we do what we have to do, we’ll be fine.
“People think I am bashing Tennessee, that isn’t the case, it is more about respect. It isn’t about that.”
The Vols are the media darlings this year and despite losing 11 straight to the gators re picked ahead of the Gators to win the SEC Eastern Division in 2016. This only fuels guys like Tabor and fuels the media into asking questions about this very thing.
“It’s discussed a lot,” Tabor said about the boys talking in the locker room about the matchup in Knoxville this year. “I wouldn’t sit here and lie to you. They’ve got some confidence and they really think they can beat us. I mean, I don’t know how many times you can beat somebody, over 10 years plus in a row, for them to just really own up. I’ve never been beaten 11 years in a row by one team or one person, so I wouldn’t know how that feels. But it’s talked about a lot.”
“Tennessee, they’ve got a good program, got a good coach, got a few good players. But at the end of the day, if you want to win the East, you’ve got to come through the Gators. Tennessee is one of those teams like no matter how much they get up on us, we just feel like we’re going to win that game at the end of the day.
“Through two years we’ve won by two points combined so that just tells you the drive that we have to win the game. No matter what, no matter how many points they score, no matter how many yards they get, as long as we’re up by one point. I think we’ll do the same thing this year. … We’ll see in Knoxville. The game is scheduled, so eventually we’ve got to put it on film.”
Par for the course, don’t let Tennessee be the only one to hear the words out of Tabor’s mouth. LSU squeaked by the Gators in Baton Rouge last year and the Tigers will visit Florida this season. They have a big time receiver that has the attention of Florida’s All-American.
"I'm just really looking forward to showing LSU's Malachi Dupre what I'm really about,” Tabor said. “I don't think he's the best receiver, but I've been hearing some things he's been saying through the grapevine. I've got a friend on LSU, and I guess there's a mutual friend. He's telling me what he says about stuff. I can't wait to show him what I'm really about."
“I need to go out and make sure they feel my presence on the field,” he said. “Not necessarily in big play ability, but to make them feel my presence. They just need to know that 31 is on the field and not anything they can play with.
“Even if Kobe or Lebron have a quiet game scoring, they will get their rebounds and block shots. You just know they are there. That is how I want to be. If I’m not breaking up passes or catching pick six’s, that isn’t going to happen all the time. If I am defeating blocks or throwing receivers off, making tackles, getting off blocks, and saving touchdowns, stuff like that, it all contributes to the game as well. That includes special teams.
“I don’t always have to get my hands on the ball to make my presence felt.”
And he doesn’t always have to have a microphone to make his presence felt in the public eye. Just catch him on Twitter.