The Swamp: Pumping Up The Volume

Nine months ago, Mainland High School All-American Avery Atkins stepped onto the Bryant Stadium turf in Lakeland with the Dreadnaught faithful raining boos down on him and his Buccaneer teammates.

He told me afterwards that it was pretty loud and gave credit to the Lakeland High School crowd for supporting their team. Saturday evening Atkins will depart the tunnel in the South End Zone and experience noise at its peak.

"I really can't wait," Atkins said. "I don't know exactly what to expect. The guys have said that it is unbelievably loud. They said they really can't describe the feeling. Coach (Charlie) Strong is the only coach left who could tell us about it. The other coaches don't really know what to expect either."

What they can expect is something that doesn't occur in Miami, Tallahassee, or Salt Lake City. Oh sure, our Florida neighbors would like to convince us that there is no difference in the volume. That same Burt Reynolds sized ego allowed Florida taxpayers to foot the bill on the transformation of The World's Largest Erector Set to the brick academic/football facility that calls itself Doak Campbell Stadium at Bobby Bowden Field with ample parking in the soon to be renamed T.J.'s Parking Lot.

One of the more appropriate descriptions of The Swamp is found in the Florida Media Guide. It was written by Birmingham News writer Kevin Scarbinsky.

"If you want to experience the best place to watch a football game in the SEC, where the only endangered species is the visiting team, go visit The Swamp. You want loud? Florida Field is Jimi Hendrix playing 'The Star Spangled Banner' at Woodstock…You want hot? Whoever said that football is no day at the beach has never been to Gainesville. It's spring break with shoulder pads. You want that sense of blood in the water? You want to know what it's like to swim with the sharks and run with the bulls? Pack the sunscreen and the shades and take a trip to college football's version of Dante's Inferno. Because you know what they say, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of The Swamp."

I'll never forget watching analyst Craig James at the Florida-Florida State game several years ago. He was on Florida sidelines and had run back as play shifted to the opposite side of the field. As he was running by, he stopped, looked up into the stands with a huge grin on his face. He mouthed to somebody sitting in one of the rows just behind the Gators bench, "I can't believe this. I can't hear a thing."

Saturday won't even be a typical day in The Swamp. Season opener plus New Coach plus Higher than usual expectations plus Quality opponent = Volume overload. I'm not saying that the volume will be as constant as it would during the Tennessee, LSU, or Florida State games, but rest assured, everybody will be revved up for this one. If the Cowboys don't wilt in the humidity or Wyoming quarterback Corey Bramlett doesn't continue to throw interceptions on the road, then we can expect the noise to be factor throughout.

"It's already been a blessing to me," Atkins stated. "I was playing at the best high school in the state … well, at least that's my opinion, and now I'm going to be playing for the Gators on Saturday. I hope that it is that loud. Coming out of that tunnel will be a dream come true."

Considering the anticipated volume Avery, body language is all we'll have to go on

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