NFL GATORS: What's it like to be a Chicago Gator?

"The first tackle of the game was made by Todd Johnson, the second tackle was made by Ian Scott, the third tackle was made by Alex Brown, the fourth tackle by Todd Johnson, the fifth tackle by Alex and Ian. I'm not kidding!! We were freaking out in the stands and started yelling Go Gators! It was so cool to brag about our Gators up there in Chicago with the announcer backing up our words! We had fun with it," said Patti Johnson as she and...

...Louise Roberts watched the Chicago Bears play the Washington Redskins last Sunday at Soldier Field. Buccaneers on Sunday at 1pm at Raymond James Stadium.

Obviously, Patti is the mother of former Florida safety Todd Johnson. Louise Roberts is the mother of former fullback Rob Roberts. Both are also proud Gators fans. The Bears currently host former Florida stars Todd Johnson, Ian Scott, Alex Brown, and Rex Grossman. All will make a return trip back to The Sunshine State when the Bears take on the Tampa Bay

Scalping a ticket in the parking lots to catch these former Gators would be money well spent. Sure, Rex Grossman will be holding clipboard, but maybe he'll get frisky and do a little Gator Chomp when a tackle is made by one of the Gators. Maybe Alex, Todd, or Ian themselves will when they make a key play. Maybe the Chomp will break out in the stands. Regardless, we're glad to have them visiting from the Windy City. It is a shame the Gators are in Starkville. Otherwise, you can bet these guys would be spending part of their day back in Gainesville.

So, how do former Florida players and their families spend football weekends when the natural progression of things has taken them into the pros? Obviously, the players have a job to do. As one might imagine, their families might take in some sightseeing and check out The Midway. Patti does a tremendous job of conveying her thoughts about the city and the Bears gameday, so I thought it best that you let her tell you herself.

"I had always heard that Chicago is a wonderful city to visit. Well, that is hardly the truth. It is an awesome city to visit. Many of the streets in the city are lined with beautiful flowers and everything is so clean. The people are all very friendly. There are lots and lots of wonderful places to eat and of course the shopping on the Magnificent Mile is incredible. Another perk is that you can get a direct flight right from Tampa so traveling is easy.

A Sunday at the Soldier Field.......Fans arrive early. The games usually start a noon, so I like to get to the field about 10 or 10:30. I do that because it seems like I always have to go shopping in the Bears Pro Shop at the stadium. Players families get a 50% discount, so that's the kind of shopping that I like! After shopping I usually go down to the family room and relax until 15 or 20 minutes before game time. The family room has televisions, lots of couches, chairs and tables, refrigerators with all kinds of drinks and snacks. Then I go up to my seats. At halftime, it's back to the family room to use the restroom and relax. Then back for the 2nd half. I'm sure that family room will come in very handy when the weather gets cold. I like the new Soldier Field because when you go to the concession stand you can still see the field. It's a great stadium. There are two large HD jumbotrons that have incredible pictures.

College football and football in the NFL are very different. There is much more of a business feeling to being a parent of a player in the NFL. The games are still really fun and exciting but you don't really go and hang out with the other families like you do in college. You see them at the stadium in the family room but everybody has their own families or friends with them and they pretty much stick together. Many of us do all sit in the same section - just like parents at Gator games. Bears fans are awesome fans. The stadium is always full and whenever they score the entire stadium sings the fight song "Bear Down Chicago Bears". They also do a silly but catchy thing. Whenever there is a time out the Bears announcer says "There's a time out" and then the entire stadium fan base yells "Where" and then the announcer says "On the field" and then the fans yell "Oh". So silly but you can't help joining in.

Todd usually always has somebody at all of the home games but when he goes on the road we generally don't go unless, of course, it's the Bucs or Jags! It is my understanding that most families don't travel to away games. Like I mentioned this is a job for these guys and so they are going to work!"

Johnson suffered a broken jaw in a 2003 pre-season game, which kept him out the entire season. So, the Johnson family is still relatively new to the NFL experience. Todd's love of Chicago and Patti's obvious love of Bears paraphernalia forced me to pose a most obvious question. How difficult would it be if he gets traded?

"It will be hard if Todd gets traded. He loves playing for the Bears and living in Chicago. I love it because they are orange and blue so my old wardrobe comes in handy! I told Todd that if he gets traded I'll kick his butt because I have so many Bears things already! Funny thing though - most family members don't get all decked out in Bears gear like Gator parents do. Many wear orange and blue, but it is much more subtle. Many just wear regular clothes."

Our thanks to Patti for sharing her thoughts and for providing insight to a Bears family gameday. It probably goes without saying that she bleeds Orange and Blue. When she's not in Chi town you can bet she's taking her seat in "The Swamp" to cheer on the Gators. We'll have Todd's thoughts for you later as we fire you up for a former Gators invasion weekend on Tampa Bay.


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