Underappreciated Football Standouts: Part 4

I was thumbing through last year's Gator football media guide and was looking at the long list of All-SEC performers in Orange and Blue through the years and one thing really stood out to me. I was taken aback by the number of truly outstanding players who never made first team All-SEC.

This is my 30th year covering the Gators and I started going year by year through the seasons and name after name kept coming up of guys who were either second team selections at best or never earned All-Conference recognition. So for the next couple of weeks as we stagger through the uneventful month of July, I'll be remembering some of those guys who are the best of the group of Gators whose honors never lived up to their contributions.

Today is part four of the series, the eighth most underappreciated football standouts in my years covering the Gators.

#10 ----- Tony Rowell
#9 ----- Chris Leak
#8 ----- Harrison Houston

#7 ----- Ray Criswell ----- I was shocked when my review of Gators and All-SEC honors did not include Criswell who I consider to be the best ever at UF. Criswell has Florida's career record with a 44.4 yard average, but might have been hurt because he shared the job for two seasons with coffin corner specialist David Nardone. Still, Criswell was a superb punter and incredibly consistent over his four year career and earns a slight nod over Shayne Edge.

There is one play that forever will be linked with Criswell and it came in Florida SEC Championship run of 1984. Florida was locked in a fierce, physical struggle (as usual) with the Auburn Tigers when Criswell dropped back to punt only to have the ball snapped right over his head. With Auburn rushers bearing down on him, Criswell scooped up the ball and somehow got off a whirling soccer-style kick that saved the Gators about 40 yards of field position. In a game that was 3-3 late in the third quarter, field position was absolutely crucial.

In the stretch of 1983-85 the Florida Gators posted three straight nine win seasons (27-4-3) primarily on stingy defense and ball control offense. To do that, an effective kicking game is an absolute must. Yet Criswell really never got the credit he deserved, getting just an All-SEC second team nod as a sophomore. Hopefully, this makes up for that just a little.

Coming up next we reach the midway point in our countdown with a former Gator player who suffered through the difficulty of being the guy who replaced the guy.

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