Spikes chasing third title


Published: Friday, March 27, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 27, 2009 at 3:55 p.m.

There are a few million reasons why Brandon Spikes could have elected to leave Florida early for the NFL. There are only a couple of reasons why he stayed.

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Senior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes laughs with teammates during the first day of spring practice.

Doug Finger/Staff Photographer

“I just sat down with the people I love, the coaching staff, family and my friends,” the senior linebacker said. “We just went from there, weighed the pros and cons, and I just felt like coming back to school would benefit me more as far as education and getting better.”

On pace to earn his degree in anthropology, Spikes also pointed to the potential to win three BCS national championships in four seasons as a reason to return to Gainesville despite most draft analysts ranking him as at worst a second-round pick this year.

Spikes said he has no regrets, but did seriously consider leaving after a junior season that saw the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski trophy, which honors the best defensive player in college football.

“Oh yeah, (being a kid) 20-, 21-years-old (who) had a chance to make it to the big leagues and you didn’t take it, you think about getting hurt or what else could you accomplish,” said Spikes, who recorded 70 tackles and three interceptions as a junior. “But I was just thinking about my family basically.

“I sat down and felt like I could benefit from coming back.”

His return was welcomed by teammates and coaches, who already had received a boost when 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow also elected to spurn the NFL.

Count Tebow among those thrilled by Spikes’ choice.

“We talked, but I wasn’t gonna ... I didn’t want to persuade anybody or make up someone else’s mind because it’s each person’s decision,” Tebow said. “They have to make it what’s best for them, so no, I didn’t want to talk him into it or anything like that. I wanted him to make his decision because then he would never regret his decision.

“I think he loves it, I think he’s glad to be back and we’re all happy to have him.”

Now, Tebow and Spikes are the unquestioned leaders of UF’s veteran offense and defense.

Spikes said that is a role he embraces, as he saw how complacency took hold after UF’s 2006 national title and led to a 9-4 season.

He wants no part of that for his 2009 Gators.

“A lot of guys on the defense last year were a part of the ’06 team and we just kind of got satisfied in the offseason (after beating Ohio State, 41-14, in the BCS title game),” Spikes said. “It’s been different right now.

“After our national championship, everybody ... we enjoyed it, we celebrated then we just came back to work to try to get another one.”

Contact John Patton at 374-5074 or at pattonj@gvillesun.com.

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