Underappreciated Football Standouts: Part 6

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 we begin the countdown of the five most under appreciated guys in my years covering the Gators. Let's review the second five:

#10 ----- Tony Rowell
#9 ----- Chris Leak
#8 ----- Harrison Houston
#7 ----- Ray Criswell
#6 ----- Doug Johnson

#5 ----- Elijah Williams ----- When you are the leading returning running back on the defending National Champions you should be an All-American candidate, maybe even a Heisman Trophy candidate. But for Eli Williams, his senior year was nothing like that. Williams instead stepped up to be the ultimate teammate and switched positions. Williams became a starting corner for the Gator defense and helped Florida to a ten-win season.

The position change made perfect sense. After all, Florida had Fred Taylor back for his final campaign as a Gator and the corner position opposite Fred Weary was wide open. Still, Williams had rushed for 1,529 yards and eleven touchdowns in the previous two seasons and was a proven receiver out of the backfield. He was viewed as a guy who had the potential to be an effective third-down back at the next level.

Instead, Williams started nine games in the Florida secondary and played solidly throughout the season. Williams was credited with breaking up seven passes, tied for third best on the team. The Gator defense held eight opponents to 21 points or less, five of them scored seven of fewer points against Florida that season.

Williams selflessness is what the word "team" is all about but it resulted in his not being nearly as recognized as his teammates on the '96 National Champs. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the sixth round (#166) of the April '98 NFL draft and spent three years with the team.

Four more still to go, and coming up next we remember a linebacker who made tackle after tackle after tackle.

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