Champs share the love
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Joakim Noah looked like a little kid.
Well, as much as someone 6-foot-11, 232 pounds can look like a little kid.
The BCS national champion football team had just finished a halftime celebration with fans when the defending NCAA champion basketball team jogged back onto the court. With a bounce in his step and smile as wide as the Sears Trophy, Noah hugged a few of the football players before Al Horford and Corey Brewer came over for some love of their own.
"In the locker room I was kind of bummed because I sat a lot of the first half with foul trouble," Noah said after UF's 79-72 victory. "But then seeing those guys and the glow they had ... that just got me so excited."
Noah hinted he was slightly envious and has a new motivation.
"I'm not gonna say I was jealous, but I want (another) ring," said Noah, who watched the second half of the title game with his teammates at a local Cabot Lodge so they wouldn't be tempted to join the postgame celebration downtown. "That sweet taste of victory is something you can't really describe. I tried to tell those guys (on the football team) what it was like before, but you never really know it until you've been there yourself.
"They know now, and I want to feel it again."
It may have been the football team that brought the title back to Gainesville, but receiver Dallas Baker and coach Urban Meyer said it was the basketball team that provided the inspiration.
"And now, they put the pressure back on us," Noah said.
Noah and Brewer said their favorite memory from the title game was linebacker Earl Everett's helmetless tackle in the first half.
"I'll remember the Earl the Pearl play the rest of my life," Noah said. "That's the way you do it - all out."
Noah, who later joked to athletic director Jeremy Foley "your swagger is so crazy right now," also said he hopes the victory and offensive MVP performance helps Gator fans appreciate quarterback Chris Leak's place in UF history.
"When Chris talked to the media, I felt like he should have said something about how much it hurt to hear boos in his home stadium," Noah said. "He is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play here, and he deserves all (the praise) he gets."
Now, junior safety Reggie Nelson is among those who have a decision to make about returning to UF or making themselves eligible for the NFL Draft.
Projected first-round picks Brewer, Noah and Horford all spurned the NBA to come back and chase a repeat championship.
When asked what advice he would offer, Brewer said "I'd tell him to do what's best for him ... but it's great to be a Florida Gator."
Contact John Patton at 374-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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