Florida game will determine Gibson's legacy

ATHENS – When it comes down to it this Saturday night, Fred Gibson will get the final chance to beat a team that he most certainly hates. The final chapter in Gibson's personal rivalry with the Gators will end once and for all in Jacksonville.

It started years ago when Gibson, a Waycross native, switched his commitment from Florida to Georgia at the final moment.

"He committed there and then he didn't go there," said Gibson's roommate D.J. Shockley. "There were some bad feelings there because he came here; and Florida is one of Georgia's biggest rivalries."

"In (my hometown of) Waycross, everybody hates the Gators. I know when I committed to Florida people were calling me, saying ‘What did you do?' Everybody (in Waycross) loves the Georgia Bulldogs," said Gibson.

But Gibson didn't leave it at that – a simple decision change when he was in high school. He made things even more heated when he did the "Gator Chomp" mocking the Gainesville crowd in Georgia's 84-79 win over a ranked Gator Basketball team.

"That might have added to it," said Shockley with a smile on his face. "It added fuel to the fire," Gibson admitted. "I don't think it helped any when I was there doing the Gator Chomp at the free throw line. I don't think a lot of their fans will forget that. I dug myself in a hole."

He only dug a hole because he hadn't won on the football field.

Fred Gibson does not like Florida and the Gators don't like him right back. The problem for Gibson has been his inability to beat them where it counts: on the football field.

Gibson's struggle, as well as the rest of the seniors', is a well documented 0-3 against the "big time" Gators.

Gibson's performance against the Gators is almost a microcosm of Georgia's struggles against their hated rivals to the south:

In 2001, Gibson and the Dawgs were too young and inexperienced to compete with a powerful Florida team. Gibson had a big day, but didn't score a touchdown as the Dawgs lost 24-10. The next season, Georgia rolled into Jacksonville undefeated and rolled out dejected and essentially out of the national title hunt after a 20-13 loss. Gibson could not go due to injury. In 2003, Florida upset Georgia again; this time it was the rest of the Bulldogs that were hurt. Still, Gibson had a disappointing game – he had only two receptions for 19 yards.

"You don't understand, man," responded Gibson when I asked him: "You're ready for this game aren't you?"

"You just watch the game Saturday – it will speak for itself," he said. You could see his eyes light up when he said it.

"He's been real hyped about this game because of how close it is to his hometown. He's looking forward to it," said Shockley. Looking forward to it so much that he is still trying to fill ticket requests.

"I am trying to collect some tickets from players – I am trying to bribe some of them. Hopefully since is it only an hour away from my home some players will work it out with me. I am trying to get tickets for my family. Hopefully the players will help me out – or everyone will be watching it on CBS."

It's clear – everyone has picked up on the Gibson-Florida thing. "I have been asked about 1,000 questions about Florida," he said. "I am trying to show up and be Superman. I am trying to show up and win," said Gibson.

Now Gibson must do what has not been done before: He must beat Florida and prove to himself, and to the Gators, that he got the final say in the rivalry. If he can do that his legacy at Georgia will be untarnished.

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