With that, let's continue our tour with a look at the best Gators to wear uniform numbers in the eighties.
#80 CHRIS FAULKNER: Faulkner burst on the scene in 1980 as a receiving tight end when the Gators opened up the offense. His threat in the middle created room for Cris Collinsworth and Tyrone Young to do their thing. He was slowed by turf toe and other problems his final two years but showed enough talent to be a fourth round pick by the Cowboys. Honorable mention for Mark McGriff and Alex Willis.
#81 DALLAS BAKER: Baker joins Brandon Siler as the only current Gators to make this list, although several others who still claim spots. Baker is nine catches shy of 100 for his Gator career and is likely to reach the 2,000 yard mark by the end of the year. He's come a long way from New Smyrna Beach High School in every way imaginable. Honorable mention for Monty Duncan and Randy Clark.
#82 GREG SEE: No, he never got to suit up, but Greg See's courageous battle with cancer inspired a great many people in Gator Nation. On top of that, while he could not survive his illness, he did survive rooming with Ernie Badeaux for a year. For his spirit and determination he gets the nod over a handful of good football players. Honorable mention for Walter Odom, Mike Mularkey and Aubrey Hill.
#83 DWAYNE DIXON: He attended high school just up the road at Santa Fe High School in Alachua. The Gators signed him, but many expected Dwayne to grow into a tight end because he lacked the speed to be a top receiver. Well, maybe not. Dixon was a superb blocker at receiver, but developed into a fine pass catcher by running flawless routes and displaying great hands. He finished with 124 receptions and had a great game in the now defunct Bluebonnet Bowl with eight catches for 106 yards and three touchdowns. Honorable mention for Harvey Thomas.
#84 BEN TROUPE: The most complete tight end ever at UF, Troupe was an under-utilized threat until his final season when he caught 39 passes for over 600 yards and five touchdowns, all tops on the '03 Gators. His game against FSU (4-121-2) was one of, if not the best ever for a UF tight end. Honorable mention Lynn Matthews and Harrison Houston.
#85 DAVID GALLOWAY: One of my earliest memories of covering a Gator football practice was being astounded to see up close just how fast a big man can be. Galloway was the one who wowed this young reporter in 1980. He wasn't the biggest lineman, but his size and strength combined with cat-quick reactions made him a unique player. Galloway was an All-American in '81 and spent the nine following years in the NFL.
#86 GARY ROLLE: A smooth receiver in the mid eighties, Gary was the possession guy while Rickey Nattiel and Frankie Neal stretched opposing defenses. He was also among the best student-athletes in school history and is now Dr. Garry Rolle.
#87 JIM YANCEY: A strong blocking tight end, Yancey was also capable of the big play. His biggest came in 1970, an 81-yard touchdown against FSU that was an important play in a 38-27 Gator win. Honorable mention for Mike Clark.
#88 WILBER MARSHALL: You know you are a ferocious player when your nickname is Kill-ber. You want to have some fun, sneak up behind ESPN's Sean Salisbury and whisper "Wilber's coming". He'll cower. Marshall's performance against Southern Cal and Salisbury was something people still talk about a half century later. His place on UF's all-time list for tackles (9th), and sacks (5th) belie his greatness. He does still hold the school record with 58 tackles for loss. Not bad for a guy who spent his freshman season as a tight end. Honorable mention for Jim Yarbrough and Kirk Kirkpatrick.
#89 RICKY NATTIEL: "The Rocket" brought much needed speed to the Gator offense in '86 and was an electric performer. The Gators were playing in a haze against Mississippi State in 1984 after going through the firing of Coach Charley Pell. Enter Nattiel who delivered a punt return that energized the Gators and the crowd. His other big moments included a 96-yard catch against Georgia that ended that game and a TD catch in the mud to beat FSU in 1986. Honorable mention for Charlie Casey and Erron Kinney.
# 89 Wes Chandler ----- Even though he didn't benefit from being in one of Florida's great passing offenses, Chandler is in many minds the best ever at UF. His career average of 21.3 yards per catch (minimum 75 rec.) is the best in UF history, as is Chandler's ratio of one touchdown every 4.18 receptions. In 1976-77 the Gators threw just 23 touchdown passes, and Chandler caught 16 of them. He also gets bonus points for his help in developing his nephew, Dallas Baker. Honorable mention for Charlie Casey and Rickey Nattiel.
There you have my picks for the best of the eighties… all that's left are the largest numbers of all.
Feedback is always welcome: Vettel@gatorcountry.com