While Florida has played just one game in Gainesville and The Swamp in the last two months, they travel just two hours down the road for their bowl game this season and Joey Ivie loves the fact he’s coming back home to finish his career as a Gator.
“I miss The Swamp, I always miss The Swamp,” Ivie said after practice for the Hawkeyes on Thursday. “It’s a great place, a great environment. Also it’s cool playing in Buc’s stadium I was born right across at Tampa General, so it’s pretty neat to play at the stadium.”
Raymond James is the home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Ivie knows all about the hometown heroes. He grew up with a family full of Bucs’ fans.
“I did like the Bucs,” he said. “Was it 2002… was that when they won the Super Bowl with Gruden? It was pretty neat to have Gruden out here (Wednesday). Me and Alex (Anzalone) were with him. It was neat to see him. I didn’t watch too much NFL football growing up as a kid but my family did like the Bucs. It was kind of neat to be able to see and meet him.”
With all of his time in the Tampa area from nearby Dade City, Ivie says that he has never actually been to a Bucs’ game in person. He said he’s been to watch a practice and a USF game in the arena.
“I’ve actually never been to a Bucs game. I’ve watched them on TV but I’ve never been to a Bucs game.”
The thought of ending his career so close to his hometown is something he knows he will cherish for a long time.
“At the end of the day it sucks that we didn’t get where we wanted to go,” he said. “For me personally, it’s a blessing to be here, to be able to be in a bowl game, have another opportunity to showcase and an opportunity to play at home. I probably have 20 people coming, friends and family wise.”
He also doesn’t know if he is going to be prepared when the realization of playing his final game as a Gator comes to pass. That realization isn’t going t come easy for what has been a huge part of his young life.
“It hasn’t hit me quite yet,” he said. “I’m sure it will hit me the day of the game. I love everything about Florida, I’m glad to be a Gator and glad to be a part of this program. I think this program is headed in the right direction.”
Ivie feels it is important to leave a lasting impression on his time here and he wants that impression to come from the game with Iowa.
“These last two weeks I’m like, you gotta practice real well, or real hard because you’re preparing yourself for the next level, but not just the next level; you’re leaving your mark here,” he said. “I want to go out with a bang. I’m going to bust my butt these last couple of days leading up to the game because these are my last couple of days as a Gator.”
And the memories of his time at Florida will be with him forever, those memories start with his teammates and the relationships he will have for the rest of his life.
“I think just the unit, the team all together, all of us,” he said about what he will miss most when moving on. “We’re one big family. It’s one thing when you get close to everybody and you’re out there playing with your brothers. The chemistry, the brotherhood. These are a lot of guys you’re going to stay friends with the rest of your life. You’ll never forget all the friendships that you made.
“You know how Florida football is. There has been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of us have gone through a lot together. It’s funny to just start talking now and look back on the past and be like, ‘wow, look where we made it. Look how far we came.’ Especially compared to people that left or transferred.”
The Next Level…
Ivie is a guy that is expected to play in the NFL and has had a good last two seasons to promote that idea. He believes he has a long future in the game.
“I think my expectations are high,” he said. “I think I’m a guy who’s going to be able to play at the next level. Obviously I want to get drafted this year, or next year, the 2017 draft. I want to be able to take advantage of any opportunity I’m given no matter where I go. Wherever I’m projected, whatever round I go, at the end of the day I want to be able to take advantage of every opportunity and get there and bust my butt, make it as far as I can make it.”
An unsung hero, Ivie relishes the thought of being underrated.
“To me it’s a compliment,” he said. “I feel like that’s how people have talked about me my whole life, my whole football career basically from high school to college people have called me underrated. I think that I am. That’s why I’m ready to showcase what I have in a lot of these different things. When I get to the next level I want to take advantage of every little thing so people will be like, ‘wow, that kid was underrated.’”