Degory Says Team Focused On Wyoming

Mike Degory came to the University of Florida figuring he would win a championship or two, something that hasn't materialized in his four years on campus. Knowing that this is his last shot at winning a championship, the senior center from Palm Bay isn't going to take Saturday's season opener against Wyoming lightly.

He's fully focused and he says his teammates understand that this is not the usual first game paycheck opponent that comes to The Swamp ready to take a beating in exchange for a big paycheck.

"I don't think anyone on this team is overlooking Wyoming," Degory said. "I think they are a very worthy opponent and we are looking forward to matching up. A team like Wyoming is a good measuring stick and not similar to what we have had in the past in our opening game. They are more like an Iowa team, very disciplined and fundamental team. They are more of a smash mouth team that will hit you in the face."

The respect that Degory and his teammates pour on Wyoming is a direct correlation to the things that the current roster says have been instilled in them by the new skipper, Urban Meyer. It's all about trust in each other, respect, and focus on their goals.

"Coach Meyer has made sure that everyone is in this together," he said. "It's a foxhole mentality, so everyone trusts each other. We are not just relying on people on Saturday in the fall we are relying on them Saturday at 2 o'clock at night, when they are making decisions that can really cost the team. I think what we have shown over the summer and to this point has been good. We have shown that we are mature and Coach Meyer has definitely pushed us that way. He has taken that initiative." Degory understands his leadership role with the team. That means keeping the younger guys focused on the team instead of sowing wild oats at downtown establishments. This parlayed into an offseason that saw the Gators absent on the local police blotters.

"I think a lot of guys --- myself and us upperclassmen --- have really kept the younger guys and ourselves out of trouble," he said. If you know they are going to go out and do something like that, maybe you whisper in their ear and tell them how important it is to think twice before making that decision.

"Coach Meyer has been emphasizing family, and since January we have been on our 'best behavior.' I think everyone is moving around, having fun and giving effort, In the past that didn't happen, so that is exciting."

The pressure for winning will be huge for Degory this season. The four-year starter will be leading four seniors and a freshman on the starting offensive line into battle every week. He understands that around Gainesville the pressure comes with the territory including Meyer's position.

"I think anytime you take this (Head Coach) position at Florida there is pressure," he said. "I have been here a long time and there is pressure on me. There is pressure on Chris (Leak). There is pressure on all of us and we have to produce."

He also knows that the talent level is getting better than it has been and a lot of that has to do with the maturity of players that now have experience on the playing field. The coaching staff has shown them how to act as a team. It is time for the experience and bond that they have established to pay off on the football field.

"Coach Meyer is running the show now, but a lot of our talent is maturing," he said. "If you look down the list, Earl Everett is a junior, Ray McDonald is a junior…our guys are starting to grow up. Maybe you won't see the huge impact as far as X's and O's go, but what he has done has building the trust and the toughness, and all those aspects. It is stuff you won't see in the statistics. Ultimately the pressure comes back on us, Coach Meyer has prepared us, but on Saturday, it's our show."

For Degory it is his last chance to win an SEC championship. It is something that he dreamed of doing and assumed would happen regularly when he signed with Florida in 2001. He is starting to understand what it will mean to him in the future to get that ring by the extra curricular things Meyer is doing outside of the football team.

"Coach Meyer's focus is on bringing back the history and where Florida has been," he said. "So, when he does the 'Gator Walk' or 'Gator Experience' or meeting former players, he is just showing us a few of the guys that have done this for a few years and have made the same sacrifices we have. It is good to have those guys cheer on our side. I guess now I am part of the history past and present."

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