70,000 celebrate with team at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Wondy Pierre-Louis(4) and Markihe Anderson(37) celebrate as they march around Florida Field during the Florida Gators official National Championship celebration at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2007. Florida beat Ohio State 41-14 in Glendale, Arizona for the BCS National Championship.

TRACY WILCOX/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 3:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 13, 2007 at 3:16 p.m.

A sea of orange- and blue-clad fans shot to their feet and exploded into a thunderous roar as the newly crowned national champion Florida football team raced onto Florida Field today.

It was the moment the Gator Nation had waited all week for: the chance to celebrate their hometown heroes.

More than 70,000 chanting, screaming and overwhelmed fans crammed into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to celebrate the football team's victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship game.

Some fans, like the Salazar family, waited in long lines, starting as early as 9 a.m., to get prime seats near the stage in the south end zone.

Richard and Brenda Salazar and their daughters, Ashley, 11, and Amber, 8, were decked in orange and blue as they eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of the football team.

"We're huge Gator fans," Richard Salazar said, noting that they never miss a game. "At 9:30 a.m., it started getting bad; everyone bull-rushed to get in."

The awe and excitement of winning the school's second national championship title reverberated among most of the Gator faithful. Fans traveled from all corners of the state and from as far away as North Carolina and Tennessee to be at today's mega-party.

For Leif Erickson, 35, and his girlfriend, Amber Gallagher, 28, both of Zephyrhills, it was a celebration that simply couldn't be missed.

"It gives me chills to watch the video," Erickson said with a wide smile as he looked at video highlights of the historic season. "It's great to be a Florida Gator."

For more fan reaction from today's national championship celebration, read Sunday's edition of The Sun.

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