Invested Seniors Score Saturday

There has been a lot of talk about the class of 2008 for this University of Florida football team and how much they have invested in their careers at Florida. There were 11 scholarship seniors that played or watched their last game as a player and all 11 will graduate by the end of the spring semester with degrees from the university. Urban Meyer made it a point to showcase the class on Saturday.

In all, the seniors scored 34 of the 70 points in the highest scoring game of the season for the Florida Gators. Senior running back Kestahn Moore accounted for two touchdowns running. Senior wide receiver Louis Murphy had a touchdown reception. Senior tight end/fullback Javier Estopinan got his first carry from the backfield and scored from one yard out. Last but not least, senior place kicker Jonathan Phillips kicked 10 extra points on the day.

It has been chronicled as a group that was unselfish and went through a lot and at the same time has accomplished more than most senior classes for the University of Florida being a part of a national championship, an SEC Championship, and two SEC East championships. They still have more to play for.

Kestahn Moore has been the model of sportsmanship and the consummate team player, especially in his final season as a Gator. Moore came to UF and started the first play of his freshman season. Although he was never considered a go to guy throughout his career. He saw his production increase at the start of his junior season. Mainly due to the dynamic play of wide receiver Percy Harvin in the running game, Moore saw his production and his time carrying the ball drop as the season went along in 2007. he finished with a solid 578 yards and six touchdowns, but most of that came in the first half of the season.

Listed as the starter in the first game of his senior season, Moore's production as a ball carrier has dropped significantly. He currently has 142 yards and four touchdowns with only three games left. Moore has always been a hard runner and averaged a very good 5.4 yards per carry throughout his career. He spends a lot of time helping his teammates get better and Moore's goal is simply to win games.

"I'm always a person to sacrifice for the team...It wasn't that big for me because I am all for the team," Moore said about his production dropping following his two touchdown performance on senior day.

Head coach Urban Meyer is Moore's biggest fan and has said a few times he believes Kestahn Moore will get his chance to be a productive player in the professional ranks. Moore will wait for three more games to end before he starts even considering that notion.

"I'll leave that stuff till the end," Moore said. "(Coach Meyer) says that stuff, but I just want to wait till the end and try and get things accomplished while I am in college right now. It is a goal of mine."

As for scoring twice on Saturday, Moore liked the feeling, even though he forgot what it was like.

"It felt great, I hadn't been in the end zone in a minute," he said jokingly. "I was thinking about doing a celebration, but I forgot about it when I got in there."

Teammate and warrior Javier Estopinan also made a splash in front of 90,000 fans scoring the first touchdown of his career Saturday. Moore knows what Javy (as he is called by coaches and teammates) has been through to get a chance like that on Saturday.

Estopinan was a starting defensive tackle in 2007 before suffering his third ACL tear of his college career. Never one to give up or complain, Estopinan worked his knee back into shape again enough to get on the field and contribute in some way. He wouldn't see meaningful minutes this season on defense, so he was switched to offense and has been a short yardage blocker as a tight end/fullback combo for most of the season.

Never the most physically gifted at any position he played, Estopinan was a hard worker and always one of the coaches' favorites. There was little doubt in the staff he would find a way to contribute even after his third knee surgery although such a thing is just about unheard of. Saturday, Estopinan carried the ball for the first time and scored from one yard out.

"That was a big deal right there," Moore said of Estopinan's run. "We were joking with coach about putting Javy in there in the beginning. When he put him in there nobody wanted to tackle him, so it was an easy six (points) for Javy. I was glad at all of that."

It was an exciting moment for Estopinan, who wasn't about to let a chance like this go to waste. Estopinan hasn't scored a touchdown since he was a sophomore tight end in high school.

"I just wanted to make sure I had the ball," Estopinan thought back to the play. "It was awesome, there is no other feeling."

Estopinan really wasn't sure the chance was going to happen until they called for him to go out on the field. It is a testament as to just what he means to Meyer and company.

"It was coach Meyer's idea," Estopinan said. "He is stingy with his touchdowns, there are so many play makers on offense, you would never think anything about it..(he told me) at the beginning of the week. I said he was crazy, he was lying. We took like five or six hand offs (all week to practice)."

When the chance came, Estopinan felt like a fish out of water. Since that sophomore guy he has always been a player trying to hit the ball carrier or beat on someone blocking for his own ball carrying teammate. For a split second, there was nothing....and then he just headed North, well maybe a little Northeast.

"I just didn't want to drop the ball," he said. "I just wanted to make sure I had the ball and score. If you watch the play again, I almost froze and then I started moving. It was real special, it was the last game in The Swamp...I thought about celebrating but I was so dazed and confused I didn't know what to do."

The run will certainly be something he never forgets, but for Estopinan it will be the time as a Gator and everything he and this senior class has accomplished together that are so important in the long run. It is that unselfish attitude that has the Gators poised to play or everything on their preseason wish list if they continue to play like they have. For Estopinan, it all started with the right decision out of high school.

"I'm just glad I made the right choice coming out of high school," he said. "There are so many people telling you different things and you don't know what is good or bad. I'm just glad I made the right decision and came to the right place. We are in a position to play for another SEC Championship and compete for another (national) championship. That is right where you want to be."


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