Running Backs Dominate The 20's

In part three of our look at the greatest Gators to wear each uniform number, we enter the roaring 20s. This group will be dominated by running backs. But we'll recognize some other standouts as well.

#20 Rick Casares ----- Many consider him Florida's first truly great runner and one of the greatest athletes in UF history. He actually earned more All-SEC recognition in basketball, but his outstanding NFL career with the Bears is a testament to his football prowess. Honorable mention for Vince Kendrick, Robert Gillespie and special teams phenom Sam McCorkle.

#21 Fred Taylor ----- He led the Gators in rushing twice, gaining 873 yards as a freshman and 1,292 as a senior. He had some troubles along the way, but Taylor ranks with the best backs at UF. He finished with 14 100-yard games, eight of them in that terrific '97 campaign. Taylor finished fourth in school history with 3,075 rushing yards and 31 rushing touchdowns. Honorable mention for Cris Collinsworth, Frankie Neal and Dexter McNab.

#22 Emmitt Smith ----- He was the most highly touted recruit in school history and more than any other player sparked the industry that is the coverage of recruiting. His first start was a spellbinding 224-yard performance at Alabama; the second of his 23 100-yard games. Emmitt gained 3,928 yards in just three seasons and still holds a number of school records, including 36 career rushing touchdowns and 1,599 rushing yards in 1989. Honorable mention for John L Williams and the Jackson family; Willie Sr., Willie Jr., and Terry.

#23 Leonard George ----- No, he was never a dominant player. He wasn't All-SEC or anything like that. But Leonard George and Willie Jackson broke the color barrier at the University of Florida and helping change the Gator Nation for the better. Both deserve this kind of recognition, but Leonard benefits from not having had any truly great players wear his number. Honorable mention to Carlos Perez, Dwayne Mobley and Curtis Stacey.

#24 Fred Weary ----- This two-way star from Jacksonville way was a receiver at first, but Florida needed help at corner and fortunately, Weary was the one to make the move. An outstanding cover man and competitor, Weary ranks right below Lito Sheppard as the best corner I've seen at UF. He broke the school record with 15 interceptions in 1997 and that record is still his. He was a first-team All-American and Thorpe Award finalist. Honorable mention for Tre Everett and Alvin Cowans.

#25 Lee McGriff ----- Another great walk-on story Lee McGriff went from un-recruited to All-SEC in a rather short time frame. Great routes and great hands helped the undersized McGriff earn All-SEC recognition. Honorable mention for Eli Williams, Stacy Simmons and Roger Sibbald.

#26 Jarvis Williams ----- Part of one of the best high school teams I've ever seen (Palatka); Jarvis was a fierce-hitting corner when he arrived at UF. In fact, his spectacular end zone interception late in the first half of the 1984 Georgia game is one of the forgotten big moments in that historic Gator win. He later moved to safety, teaming with Louis Oliver to give UF the best tandem in the land. He started every game (45) in his Gator career. Honorable mention for Todd Johnson and Ivory Curry.

#27 Neal Anderson ----- As classy a guy as you will ever meet, the speedy back from Graceville turned down Bear Bryant to be a Gator. He couldn't get on the field as a freshman because of fumbling on the practice field, but when he finally did get to play, he burst on the scene with three straight 100-yard games to end the 1982 season in style. And he got better, and better and better over the next three years. He left UF as the all-time leading rusher with 3,234 yards despite sharing the backfield with the likes of James Jones, Lorenzo Hampton and John L Williams during his career. Honorable mention for Travis Harris and Henry Davis.

#28 Chris Doering ----- I thought he should play baseball instead of football at UF. I was an idiot. Chris Doering wanted to be a Gator his whole life, following in the footsteps of his idol Cris Collinsworth. However UF coaches didn't think he was good enough. They were idiots, too. Doering showed he belonged and then some, setting the SEC record with 31 career TD receptions. My favorite Doering moments came in Athens when he caught TD passes on three straight plays after the first two were wiped out by penalties. I suppose the rest of you prefer the Kentucky TD. Honorable mention for Randy Talbot and Richard Fain.

#29 Mike Peterson ----- In 1998 Jevon Kearse, Johnny Rutledge and Mike Peterson were all nominees for the Butkus Award given to the nation's top linebacker. Kearse was a finalist, Rutledge made the top ten, but Peterson was the best linebacker on that team. A coaches' dream, Mike "Pete" was always where he was supposed to be, and always helping others to do the same. While the others got the pub, it was Peterson who led the '98 defense with 127 total tackles. Next up Gators in their thirties, and some of them just might still be in their 30s.

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


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