Florida quarterback Austin Appleby ready and prepared for his bigger role on Saturday

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Florida quarterback Austin Appleby is ready to take his place as the leader of the Gators offense.

Austin Appleby will suit up for the Florida Gators on Saturday fulfilling a life long goal. 
"I’ve dreamed about being a Gator since I was a little kid, even coming from Ohio I was always a Gator fan," said the Florida quarterback. 
Appleby was being groomed to become an Ohio State fan, however, things quickly changed when he saw the Buckeyes play Florida for a national championship and he saw number 15. 
"Tim Tebow was my idol, as many kids were probably at that time," said Appleby. "He left an impact on me. And the more that I’ve learned about him, the more that I’ve wanted to be like him. And I’ve been modeling myself after him, and ever since that I’ve been a Gator.”
Appleby, who were number 15 all throughout high school, camped at Florida during his sophomore year in high school.
"I just fell in love with the place," he said. 
But things were not so simple. Appleby first landed in Purdue, before finally transferring to Florida last season. 
"There were a lot of places where I had a lot of guarantees that you’re going to be our man Day one, we’re handing you the keys. There was never that guarantees here," he explained. "I was told Day 1 ‘hey you’re going to have to earn it’. Which is what you want, you want to play at a place like this. You want to earn your job, you want to earn the respect of your teammates, I don’t think you ever want to have anything handed to you. And at the end of the day it was just an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up." 
Appleby will finally have his opportunity under center this week. He is starting for Jim McElwain after starter Luke Del Rio picked up a MCL injury in Florida's 32-0 win against North Texas last weekend. 
“Everything that happened to Del Rio, in my opinion, the good, bad and indifferent, has prepared me for right now," said Appleby. "I’ve learned what it means when I have to go into a game and win a shootout.  I’ve also learned what it’s like when you try to cover too many people and you make mistakes."
Although Appleby did not win the starting job over the spring and summer, he is not concerned. He admits  being disappointed, but says he did not pout and simply continued preparing. 
"Just got to do my job.  Just got to work the offense, trust coach’s plan, trust my teammates and just go find the open guy and everything will take care of itself," he added. "In a second, you’re up, and it’s not the injury bug, it’s the opportunity bug.  There’s an opportunity to do something great.  On this team and be a part of a program that’s going to do some special things this year.  My whole locker room is supporting me and behind me.  As the would be with anyone else.  We’ve got such a culture, we’re so close down there, we’re so tight, that the outside voices and opinions really don’t matter, because we know what we’re capable of.
"We have the best defense in the country, I truly believe that.  I play against them every day.  These guys are suffocating.  And I’m really, really excited to watch them this Saturday and to know that they’ve got our back the way we’ve got theirs.   Punting is not a bad play, they are going to give it right back to us.  And we’ve got so many weapons.  We’ve got a run game, that it doesn’t matter what back you hand it off to.  We’ve got receivers on the outside that are going to be back and healthy, and we’re going to be launching it all over the place.  As a quarterback, trusting the game plan that Coach Mac and Coach Nuss are making is going to be second to none.  Have confidence in it and go out there and do your job.”

NCAA Approved? 

This week the Gators will renew their rivalry against Tennessee, as they hit the road to Rocky Top. 
“We’re definitely excited for the opportunity to go to a place like that, with what’s at stake. I mean, it’s just another game, you know," he said. "I’ve been to Nebraska, I’ve been to Ohio State, I’ve been to Michigan State, I’ve been to Penn State. The conference, the stadium’s are the same. You go in there with an ‘us against the world’ mentality and you trust your teammates. You communicate and you go execute the game plan. At the end of the day, it’s all noise. All the pregame stuff, it’s where you come like, ‘Oh, wow, this is legit.’ But once the game starts - I think if you ask a lot of players they’ll say the same thing – it all kind of quiets and you lock into your zone.”
Although Appleby compares playing at Neyland as simply another stadium, the rivalry is rather heated. One Vols fan has already started a GoFundMe account for the Appleby's funeral for after the game. 
“They’re having a little bit of fun. It is fun, it’s part of the rivalry. I’d love to get my hands on the GoFundMe if it’s NCAA approved. If they can get me some cash, that’d be awesome. I can use it. I’m getting hungry, plus I can pay for freaking gas for my scooter. No, it’s fun. It’s all good. It’s part of the SEC rivalry. It’s also a game week. The notifications are off, so not a whole lot of it is reaching me. It’s a lot of my friends’ comments and ‘Hey, look what they did.’ It’s all cool. I’m excited about the opportunity to go play them though.”

Odds and Ends 

On the offensive line
"Young but very, very talented. They get better with every single day. With the youth up there, this a lot of times is the first time that they’ve seen a stunt or seen a blitz or even been communicating together the way we through Jawaan [Taylor] in there. It’s new, but the ceilings they have, the potential they have up there, it’s endless. With every single day that they’re out there, the more they can communicate and get comfortable, just like me being here. The more they’re out there, the more reps they can get, game experience, the better they get. Sky’s the limit for them. I’m sure glad they’re protecting.”
On McElwain's reaction after Luke Del Rio got hurt 
“What we already knew; that he has our back. I’ve never been around a place where our coach truly cared. It’s a lot of talk at some places and you don’t really know if they truly got you. There’s no doubt about it here. Coach Mac has our back. He loves us. So does the rest of our staff. Because of that we will run through a wall for that guy. We have his back 100 percent, and I think he kind of saw that with how Martez reacted. Coach Mac said that was one him, but we’re going to fight for our coach and fight for our teammates. The culture and standard that is been built and being built and getting tighter every single day is something that is very special.

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