Underappreciated Football Standouts: Part 8

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 continue the countdown with one of the three most under appreciated guys in my years covering the Gators. Let's review those we've already identified:

#10 ----- Tony Rowell
#9 ----- Chris Leak
#8 ----- Harrison Houston
#7 ----- Ray Criswell
#6 ----- Doug Johnson
#5 ----- Elijah Williams
#4 ----- Ed Robinson

#3 ----- Steve Rissler ----- When the 2006 season began the biggest question about the Florida Gators was what kind of offensive line they would have. It's easy to forget that now, but Florida was without four starters from the 2005 blocking crew with only right guard Steve Rissler returning. And he was changing positions. Florida had in reality five brand new starters in 2006 and Rissler was the lone veteran.

As the one senior up front, Rissler had to take over his young charges, motivate them through the off-season program and mold them into a cohesive unit. He had to do all that while learning a new and critically important position (center).

Florida's offensive line and offensive unit progressed steadily through the season and by the end of the year the offense was tremendous. The Gators scored 38 points in their SEC Championship Game victory over Arkansas. They followed that up with another 41 against the top-ranked Buckeyes in the BCS Championship Game. For the year the Gators averaged almost 400 yards of total offense and allowed just 23 quarterback sacks in 14 games.

They accomplished all of that with a center who had almost no experience at the position and was a bit undersized for it. A lone senior on a young, talented unit who pulled them together a guided them through the season to the point where they were being fitted for National Championship rings. Steve Rissler wasn't All-SEC and wasn't even drafted by the NFL. That's okay, because Rissler was appreciated in the locker room and he'll be wearing that ring proudly for years to come.

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