Meyer Remembers Herrion As "Great Kid"

When the Florida Gators finished their afternoon practice Monday, the second session of the day, it not only marked the end of two-a-day practices but perhaps brought a sigh of relief to a coaching and training staff that has been closely monitoring the team as it has practiced during this brutally oppressive heat wave.

Although practice had Coach Urban Meyer's full attention Monday, there had to be lingering thoughts of Thomas Herrion, the San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman who collapsed and died after Saturday night's NFL exhibition game.

Herrion played for Meyer at Utah in 2003. He died Saturday night apparently from heat related issues after a game played in 65 degree temperatures. Meyer said that the death "does not make sense" when he spoke to media after Monday's practice. Meyer said that he is eager to find out the answers to why Herrion died so young and in conditions that should not have brought on a heat related illness.

"He was a great kid … a great kid," said Meyer. "He was a big guy … when I had him he was 330 or 340 (he was listed at 310 at San Francisco). "He was always big. He was not a drinker, not a smoker … he enjoyed life. He was a great kid."

Meyer said the death of the player nicknamed "Big T" came as a shock to his daughters and his family --- "they were crushed." Herrion will always be remembered by them as the big guy who made friends easily and the singer at the team's church services. Meyer said that Herrion grew up as a singer in the church choir back in Texas so he was always singing in the team's church services.

"He was a great young man," said Meyer. "He would enter a room and you would know he's there. He was friends with everybody."

When Meyer came to Florida one of the first things he did was have assistant strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis research heat issues thoroughly.

"I had Matt Balis go on a full court press with how to handle it and see how other teams have successfully handled it," said Meyer. "That was started in January. It was thoroughly researched."

While the Gators have had some players overheat a bit during the practice sessions, the training staff carefully monitors both the players and the heat index to be certain that everyone is within safe limits.

"That's why you see us take breaks during these two-a-day practices," said Meyer. "We're fortunate at Florida to have so much support. I remember when I started (at Bowling Green) it was me and a couple of other guys. I remember watering players down.

"We have a lot of support here. Mickey (Marotti, strength and conditioning coordinator) and (head trainer) Anthony Pass and our doctors do a great job so they really watch it for me. They'll come up to me during practice and say the heat index is at so and so, let's get them in the tents. We have these cooling zones and tents going on all the time. It's because of where we're at."

INJURY UPDATE: Corner Dee Webb was held out of contact drills on Monday following an injury to his shoulder in Saturday morning's practice. Meyer said that the injury is a recurrence of a shoulder separation that Webb suffered playing high school football.

The injury will not keep Webb out of the season opener on September 3, but it will limit the amount of contact that he goes through until the first game.

"Dee Webb's doing good," said Meyer. "He's running, not any contact obviously. We're keeping out of drills because if he falls he can't protect himself so the word that I've been told is that as he gets stronger we'll get him more involved in the drills, but he's scheduled to play on September 3." Meyer said that Webb is "a tough kid and he's fighting through it" and that in the practices over the next two weeks, Webb will be wearing a shoulder harness that will limit the mobility.

Second unit linebacker Billy Latsko spent the last part of Monday afternoon's practice in The Pit. Latsko has an ongoing groin injury that requires some caution.

"It's a lingering injury that has really been going on so when it gets tight we pull him," said Meyer.

Meyer expects that Latsko and several other dinged up players will get back to full speed now that two-a-day practice session are officially over. The brutal heat conditions have taken their toll on the team.

"We get to one a days which is now and you'll see these guys getting their legs back," said Meyer.

Second unit tight end Markell Thompson is out six to eight weeks with a broken ankle. He was lifting weights and doing sit ups in The Pit.

First unit linebacker Todd McCullough was back to practicing Monday after missing four days with a sore knee.

"He has a meniscus issue but he's fighting through it," said Meyer. "We just gotta get him ready for September 3 and keep him sharp. He went a little bit today."

Safety/corner Reggie Nelson sat out of practice once again with the lingering effects of a staph infection. It had been expected that he would be able to return to practice Monday, but his return was put off at least one more day.

"Reggie is tomorrow from what they tell me," said Meyer. "I'm not sure what tomorrow means. Tomorrow or the next day or the next day or the next day but that's something you can't mess around with, that staph infection."

TIGHT END SITUATION: With Thompson out six to eight weeks, Meyer is shuffling personnel around to handle short yardage situations that will require a second tight end opposite starter Tate Casey.

"We've talked about whether it will be an offensive lineman or whether it will be a Latsko or a (Eric) Rutledge that will help us in our short yardage stuff," said Meyer.

Rutledge and Latsko played fullback last year before moving to linebacker in the spring. With Latsko dinged up with his groin injury, Rutledge was working some at tight end on Monday.

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