Fans soak up good times at Gator celebration


Gator fans scream for Percy Harvin following the Gator national championship celebration at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Sunday.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, January 12, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 9:42 p.m.

Grown men got tears in their eyes as quarterback Tim Tebow hugged his University of Florida football role model Danny Wuerffel.

Little kids clad in miniature Tebow jerseys chanted "It's great ... to be ... a Florida Gator."

And some women swooned at the dance moves safety Major Wright pulled on the center stage Sunday.

That was the jovial and welcoming scene as an estimated 42,000 fans sat in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to celebrate the Gators third football national championship.

Aside from his dancing, Wright was a popular name among fans for his bone-crushing hit during Thursday's game against Oklahoma University player Manny Johnson.

"There are things that really stick out in my mind from this season," said William Iddings, who came from Belleview to watch Sunday's celebration. "Percy Harvin's first reception against LSU, Major Wright's hit on 'No-Show Manny,' and winning the national championship."

If Wright was remembered by fans for his hard hit and dancing, then Harvin will be remembered for that 70-yard reception and the infamous butt-slap.

Coach Urban Myer was the unsuspecting victim during the Oklahoma game of a fanny-tap-heard-round-the-stadium. "Coach, you know I'm sorry," Harvin joked at the celebration. "It ain't nothing but love, baby."

As Tebow announced he was returning for his senior year, the crowd erupted into applause but also a general overflow of affection.

Students kissed passionately, families embraced in group hugs and high-fives were thrown between buddies.

Russ Trapp, a 79-year-old, life-long Gator fan from Jacksonville said that was the single greatest moment of the season. "I wish my dad was here to see it," Trapp said. "He was a true Gator fan."

Iddings said that while other teams like Nebraska and Oklahoma may have more national championships, the Gators' youth made this an unprecedented win.

"I mean, there are kids on that football team who contributed to the season who are 18 years old," said Iddings, whose lawn care company, Advantage Green, is a Bull Gator. "It's not like Nebraska who wiped the floor with us (on Jan. 2, 1996) with a whole bunch of 28-year-olds."

Fretreshia Snead said that even better than winning the big game was the announcement that Tebow will return.

"He's wonderful. He'll be a Gator for life," Snead said.

The fans reluctantly left the stadium once the hour-long presentation was completed. Many people mulled around and compared game notes from a memorable season.

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