Brandon Spikes has exceeded expectations all his life. People have always told him he couldn't do things, but he's always accomplished his goal in spite. Now, the junior linebacker is on the verge of a second SEC title, possibly a second national title and possibly a shot at the NFL.
"From middle school people told me I couldn't play varsity and in high school they told me I couldn't win a state championship," Spikes said. "My whole life is just been proving people wrong."
When Spikes was being recruited in high school, people said he would be a defensive end at the college level, but he wanted to be a middle linebacker, and things are working out pretty well for the Gator superstar. Spikes is the emotional, and now vocal, leader of the Florida defense that has become one of the best units in the nation.
"I didn't really emphasize the keys to winning games," Spikes said. "I took a lot of the smaller things for granted. When we lost that game (Ole Miss), we started watching more film. On Mondays when the rest of the team is off, we would come in, the whole defense, and watch film. That's the reason why we've been playing better together on Saturday's. Since the Ole Miss game, I've just tried to become more vocal and telling guys not to take teams for granted anymore."
The defensive unit has also gotten closer off the field. They spend their time away from the football field hanging out, playing cards and watching TV.
"We just get around with other," Spikes said. "After practice, we go home together and hang out together. We'll watch film off campus. It's the smaller things. You learn guys. Guys you wouldn't normally talk to, you learn about them. It's a time to take our minds off the game and have fun with each other and enjoy each other."
Spikes really became a more vocal leader after the Ole Miss game, but defensive coordinator Charlie Strong saw it starting to improve back in the spring.
"It took over in the spring just because he knew in order for us to be a good defense, he knew he was going to have to play well," Strong said. "Everyone feeds off of him because of the kind of energy he brings. He started to realize that this defense was going to go the way that he goes. He realized he can't do the things he used to do or make the kind of mistakes he used to make because these guys all look up to him. If you just watch him, when he gets going the whole defense gets going."
"I've always been a vocal guy and played with a lot of emotion and energy on the field," Spikes said. "But recently I've been getting in the young guy's ears a lot more."
With the improvement of the defense, the attention on Spikes and his future has grown. He's become a high draft pick prospect for next spring's NFL Draft, but Spikes is trying not to think about that right now.
"I think about it sometimes, but nothing too serious," he said. "It's not the time to think about it. The focus has to be on the team. Every day someone is constantly saying it to me, so I can't dodge it."
Spikes said he really hasn't thought about his future that much, but he has discussed it with a couple of former Gators that faced similar decisions. Jarvis Moss has told Spikes that he wishes he returned to Florida for his senior year, but it will be tough for Spikes to not pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.
"It's kind of a like a dream come true," Spikes said. "But right now my main focus is beating Florida State. I hear it 3-4 times a day, though. All my life people have been doubting me, and now to hear it, it's kind of making me humble. I don't think about it too much."
Spikes Chasing a Dream
Fightin Gators Top Stories
Gators in disbelief about classic gameNEW YORK – Things we learned in overtime: Canyon Barry is LeBron James, and no Gators player knew Chris Chiozza’s shot was going in.
Fightin Gators12:15 AM
Cheese curdles Wisconsin with three to winThe guy they call ‘Cheese’ beat the Cheese State team with a shot at the buzzer in overtime to win 84-83. It was the first buzzer beater for a Gators win in the NCAA Tournament…
Fightin GatorsYesterday at 11:53 PM
Do you believe in miracles?If you weren’t one to believe in miracles prior to the clock striking zero at the end of overtime sometime after midnight Saturday morning at Madison Square Garden, then you…
Fightin GatorsYesterday at 11:16 PM
WATCH: Gators Celebrate OT Win in Sweet 16Florida stamped its ticket to the Elite 8 after Chris Chiozza's buzzer beating three in overtime. Watch as the Gators celebrate the win on their way to the locker room.
Fightin GatorsYesterday at 10:22 PM