Herring: Things Are Different This Year

TAMPA --- The present Outback Bowl experience is far removed from the two previously experienced by senior safety Jarvis Herring. Gone are the days of putting the individual ahead of team achievements. The problem began with an obvious lack of discipline that carried throughout much of the roster.

When Florida last played in the Outback Bowl (2003), it was more than a mere letdown. It was a meltdown. Like many other teams, the Gators had entered the season with championship goals, expecting to make it to a BCS game. It didn't happen for them, and a dejected Florida team took the two-hour trip from Gainesville to Tampa for more disappointment. They were soundly beaten by the Iowa Hawkeyes, 37-17. It was the trip few seemingly wanted to take and there were more than a few fingers pointed at a few who apparently thought the best policy was to avoid risk and be healthy for the upcoming NFL Draft. The team was emotionally and mentally ill-prepared.

"The last time that we played, guys weren't taking it serious," Herring said. "At that time, guys back then, they didn't care. They didn't care if you got whipped or whatever. They weren't embarrassed after the game. It wasn't anything. Guys were just ready to have fun. There were a bunch of undisciplined players, all of us. Well, most of us. We were just doing different things. Guys were just ready to get it over with and go back home."

The attitude of the Florida program turned with the hiring of head coach Urban Meyer. Quitting is not an option. Lack of effort is for losers. Herring doesn't hesitate when telling you that Meyer is the figure who stripped the Gators of individualism. Effort is more than showing up for practice. It is making things happen each and every opportunity.

"Man", Herring said with a grin. "He put a whole new face on us. He put a new face on all of the players I'd say. He took us to a whole new level. He made us more responsible. We're more responsible people now. We look out for each other. He makes it where you want to work hard. Even though you should want to work hard, some guys don't have that drive. He makes things fun and competitive to where you want to go hard all of the time. He's always there for you.

Perhaps no Florida player benefited more from the change. Herring has spoken often about his own careless attitude. It was evident to his own teammates a year ago, before Meyer's arrival on campus.

"There is no way that you could have told back then that Jarvis Herring would become the person that he is today," linebacker Brandon Siler said. "I didn't hang out with Jarvis much last year. We really just weren't that close. But, we're close now. He's a new man. He's a team leader."

Herring was one of the first in the media room and repeatedly said that this is not the same Florida team that wore the uniform two years ago. Nobody is talking about the upcoming draft, even though there are a few players who are certainly on the radar of many clubs. Those days are over. The Gators insist they are focusing on this game for one purpose, to win.

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