Senior wide outs shine one last time in the Swamp

Dec 1, 2019 | 0 comments

A special season for a special group of young men culminated with a proper sendoff Saturday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Florida State. Senior night. Under the lights.

The graduating Florida football players were all recognized prior to kick and were well represented on the field. However, no group had a better last showing in The Swamp than the Florida senior wide receivers, Josh Hammond, Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland.

“Those guys really set an example of what it is to be an unselfish football player,” said Gators head coach Dan Mullen postgame. “I don’t know what the stats show, but if you look by position and combine those numbers we’ve had, those are some big numbers that have played out.”

That’s been the story of this group of Gators wideouts all season. They fully bought into Dan Mullen and what the Gator Standard is. They never cared about who was putting up the numbers, they wanted to succeed as a group all season.

And for one last time in their home stadium, they did just that.

To open the game, Mullen had all four senior receivers on the field at the same time. It would eventually led to them combining for 17 receptions, 193 yards and four scores.

They were led by Swain, who has now developed into one of the leaders on this time, despite being soft spoken. He leads with his play and had one more great game in The Swamp.

The Ocala native finished with five catches for 62 yards and reached the end zone two times in his final home game. On his touchdowns, Swain took simple screen passes to the house after slipping by several defenders.

All of that was done in just one half for Swain. He didn’t play the second half after tweaking his knee and was held out for precautionary reasons.

“He’s done a great job,” Mullen said. “Great leader for the guys…energy.”

He may have only been in Gainesville for two years, but Jefferson has made plenty of memories in The Swamp and had a few more tonight.

Jefferson also caught five passes for 48 yards and found the end zone twice. On his first score, Jefferson soared over a Seminoles defender on a crucial third down that essentially opened the floodgates for the Gators.

Of the current players, their may not be a more beloved player by the fanbase than Cleveland. In the weeks leading up to this game, it seemed liked Florida fans and players all wanted to Cleveland to have one last big game in The Swamp.

He may not have found the end zone, but it was still a solid last showing . He had four receptions for 44 yards and had a kick return of 40 yards that would’ve blew the theoretical roof off of BHG.

“I made the stick and he tripped me up,” Cleveland said postgame. “I think that would have been a touchdown. I really tried to get in the end zone tonight.”

Leaving the field for one last time, Cleveland was visibly emotional. He and some other receivers kneeled down in the South end zone to soak it all in one last time.

“Florida always going to have a special in my heart and just grateful for the opportunity to play for the University of Florida and the future is bright for the Florida program,” Cleveland said.

And the last of the special group of senior wideouts, the ever reliable Hammond. He caught three passes for 39 yards that included a bubble screen that he nearly took the distance.

“We were just excited to come out and play,” Hammond said. “We knew we were going to be able to execute and we were excited to get out here and get those plays and show what we can do. We’ve been through a lot… All of these guys here are just so unselfish and just love the Gator football team and want to see us do well.”

Their time in the Orange and Blue is quickly dwindling as the Gators have just the bowl game left. However, there’s no denying how pivotal these four players were to the revival of the Florida program.

“I think we’ve got this program back to being in National prominence…” Hammond said. “People are respecting Florida in a way and we worked really hard to get there and I think everybody that’s been a part definitely knows that and it’s just exciting to be a part of it and get back to where it’s at.”

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