Seniors' Final Game is Big Easy Experience

NEW ORLEANS - A number of commentators had questioned whether Florida would be ready for their Sugar Bowl matchup with No. 3 Cincinnati. After all, Alabama had lost to an undefeated Utah team in the game a year earlier when the Crimson Tide had been unable to rebound from the disappointment of falling against Florida in the SEC Championship Game.

Couple that with the uncertainty caused by Urban Meyer's status and the expected departure of a number of junior players and it all seemed to point to potential trouble. What they hadn't taken into account was the impact of Florida's seniors, as Tim Tebow and company led the way in a thrashing of the Bearcats.  

"We got refocused. We had a lot of adversity, we had a lot of things that weren't going our way," said unanimous Sugar Bowl MVP Tebow. "We stuck together, we cared about each other, and we came out here and played hard."  

While Tebow is by far the best known senior, he's got lots of company when it comes to making an impact on the field. Linebacker Brandon Spikes says he felt from he beginning he was part of something special.  

"I knew when I committed to Florida I was coming in with a bunch of great players," said Spikes. "That whole entire 06 class, it was just great. We had a great run."  

On the field after the game, Spikes thought back to a meeting at Urban Meyer's house before his class began their first season.  

"He told us way back then that all this would happen. We just bought into the program and got things done."    

While Spikes has been an impact player and leader from the beginning of his Florida career, fellow linebacker Ryan Stamper had a much steeper climb to become a force on the field. It took him until his redshirt junior season to really emerge as a factor, but coaches have consistently praised his leadership qualities. Stamper felt the legacy of the seniors was on the line against Cincinnati.  

"Everything we've done this season, last season.... probably people would have forgotten about this senior class if we had lost this game."  

The seniors will now focus on their NFL hopes. With a number of juniors likely to declare as well, this Gator squad may well have a chance to set a record for most players drafted off of a single years squad. While the coming year will be huge for all of them, Tebow summed up their mood Friday night.  

"I'm trying to enjoy this with a coach I love and a lot of players that I adore."

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