Small cheering section greets Gators at airport
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Between Monday night's madness on W. University Avenue and Tuesday night's halftime appearance at the O'Connell Center, the Gator football team sneaked quietly back into town late Tuesday afternoon through Gainesville Regional Airport.
Fans were discouraged from meeting the team's plane, with police letting only ticketed travelers and people with official airport business on airport grounds. But a small group of fans, including a throng of airport employees, formed an enthusiastic, if small, cheering section for the team's homecoming.
Sharon Brown came to the airport to drop off a rental van with her 8-year-old son, Stephon Brown, and 8-year-old Chantel Davis. They lingered on the sidewalk outside the terminal to try to catch a glimpse of the Gators.
"We just got here by luck," Sharon Brown said. "We walked up and realized this was going on, so we're just sticking around to see what we can see. We're about to have a fit trying to see them."
"I'm going to get an autograph from Chris Leak," Stephon Brown said. "I'm going to get him to sign my shoes."
"We want to see Chris Leak so bad," Sharon Brown said.
Leak was headed for Los Angeles for an appearance on The Tonight Show with host Jay Leno.
But the group of fans waiting outside the terminal didn't see much of the rest of the team, either, as the players walked off the plane and onto three charter buses headed for campus without much ado.
The team appeared during halftime of the basketball game at the O'Connell Center on Tuesday night, and was expected to officially greet fans at a homecoming celebration at noon on Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
The main sign of activity at the airport late Tuesday afternoon was a trio of news helicopters buzzing overhead and a dozen satellite trucks parked at the airport to broadcast the homecoming to television stations across the state.
Airport employee Michelle Brock, who wore an orange and blue hair clip with her airport uniform, said she was happy just to take part in the excitement surrounding her home team's return.
"We love this," said Brock, who used her break to watch the team's arrival. "You can just feel the excitement in the air. We deal with the team all the time, so we kind of get to know the players. They're all just so nice. On days like today, the airport sort of feels like part of the university. It's fun to be part of it."
"On days like today, the airport sort of feels like part of the university."
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