Gators by the Numbers - Nos. 1-9

Two years ago I went through the history of Florida football and identified the greatest Gators to wear each of those numbers. It was a time consuming, but quite enjoyable and fascinating process. I learned how many early Gators didn't wear numbers and how many numbers never have been worn by a truly great (or even very good) Florida Gator.

A couple of months ago a couple of threads were started asking about this topic, and considering the Gators won a national title since I first did it, it seems like a good time to revisit that list with some appropriate changes from the original. Keep in mind a number of guys have worn multiple numbers in their careers.

For purposes of this list, I tried to go with the number a player wore for most of his career, UNLESS that player changed numbers prior to his senior season. Also, I couldn't find any Gator football player who wore "0" so we'll have 99 guys instead of 100.

Finally, the source for the older numbers is the 2004 Florida football media guide. With that, here are the greatest Gators to wear the numbers 1-thru-9.

#1 Reggie Nelson ----- The first number on the list is the first change from the list of two years ago as Nelson replaces Keiwan Ratliff. Nelson is, for my money the greatest safety in school history and one of the top five or so defensive players Florida has ever had. He was the single most important player on Florida's 2006 National Champs. Honorable mention for Ratliff, Tony George, Jack Jackson and Wayne Fields.

#2 Adrian White ----- This fearsome defensive back from Orange Park was a key part of the best secondary ever at UF in the early '80s. He also clinched the '84 SEC Title with a late interception at Kentucky. Honorable mention for Will White, Shea Showers and Alan Williams.

#3 Lito Sheppard ----- My vote for the best corner in UF history, Sheppard was sensational as a punt returner as well. He had six interceptions in 2000 and opponents avoided him in '01. He was a first-round pick and ranks with the better corners in the NFL. Honorable mention for Larry Kennedy, Travis McGriff and Brian Clark.

#4 Ciatrick Fason ----- First of all, C-4 is a great nickname. Secondly, his 2004 season (1,267 rush yards, 266 rec. yards, 12 TD) is one of the best at UF. Easily the closest call thus far. Honorable mention for Lawrence Wright, Marquand Manuel and Alvin Parrish.

#5 Andre "Bubba" Caldwell ----- This is another change as Caldwell's career eclipses that of Earnest Graham. Caldwell broke the school record with 185 receptions, good for 2,349 (No. 3) and 16 TD. He also ran for 293 yards (4 TD) and returned kicks for another 752 giving him over 33-hundred all purpose yards. This was a close call. Honorable mention for Graham, Jacquez Green and Willie McClendon.

#6 Taylor Jacobs ----- Many thought this Tallahassee product was sort of an afterthought recruit. Not the case at all. Jacobs had a 1,000 yard season in 2002, putting him into UF's 2,000 yard career club. The man who signed him, Steve Spurrier then drafted him in the second round. Honorable mention for Judd Davis and Jimmy Spencer

#7 Danny Wuerffel ----- If he is the greatest No. 7 in college football history, winning this UF poll should be easy… and it was. 10,875 passing yards, 114 touchdowns, a part of four SEC Titles, a national title and the Heisman for good measure. Honorable mention for Lorenzo Hampton and John Reaves.

#8 Rex Grossman ----- As great as Wuerffel's career was, Rex Grossman's 2001 season may be the best in UF history. 3,896 yards, 65.6 percent completions, 34 touchdowns. Rex amassed 9,164 yards without the benefit of a senior season. Honorable mention for Chad Jackson, Ricky Easmon and Don Gaffney.

#9 Shane Matthews ----- The run of quarterbacks continues with the soft spoken man from Pascagoula. Matthews' "aw shucks" personality belied the competitor that he was. He re-wrote the UF record book before Wuerffel re-re-wrote it. He showed his toughness in absorbing a beating while leading an undermanned Florida team to nine wins in 1992. Honorable mention for Anthone Lott, Gus Scott and Ray McDonald.

As you can see, kickers are good candidates for honorable mention, but lost many close calls in this series. Next up, numbers 10-19.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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