Nelson: Gators still have that hunger


Florida's David Nelson celebrates his touchdown against Alabama during the second quarter of the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome on December 6, 2008.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 11:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 at 11:59 p.m.

Summer workouts two years ago weren't taken seriously, Florida senior wide receiver David Nelson said.

The Gators were fresh off a national championship, but complacency set in and months later, Florida found itself on the losing end in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan.

Fast forward to 2009 and the Gators are again defending champs, but with a much better attitude.

"Two years ago we had a team that felt that we had all the answers. A team that didn't want to work to get to the top again," Nelson said after the 2nd Gator Charity Challenge on Friday night at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. "This team came in this summer and we were hungry. We weren't satisfied with winning one national championship."

He can see it in the weight room where one day a set of 15 reps on bench press will turn into 16 the next. Seventeen and even 18 follow in the days to come.

He can see it in himself. Nelson arrived at Florida in 2005 barely cracking 195 pounds and thought he "had all the answers." That scrawny, immature athlete has now blossomed into a 217-pound leader that has had his toughest summer in Gainesville.

"If anyone can say that, I can say that," he said. "I've been here for four years, this is my fifth summer. It was a tough summer and it's just what we needed."

While coach Urban Meyer and his assistants aren't allowed to work with or watch their players during summer workouts, Nelson said the team has functioned just fine under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti. 

When the players aren't pumping up the pounds in the weight room, Nelson said they're running plays and getting back into the groove of game-like situations.

With all that work, Nelson said he's noticed a couple things.

For starters, the younger group of receivers made a statement in the past couple of months. The freshmen mentalities are slipping away from the likes of Frankie Hammond Jr., Omarius Hines and T.J. Lawrence and their competitive nature is erupting. 

"That's not something you see from young guys in their position a lot," Nelson said. "They're competing. They all want to play and they're all hungry to get on that field."

One freshman yet to compete at this best is Andre Debose. Debose has been limited this summer by a hamstring injury, but should be healthy by fall practice, Nelson said.

Nelson, the older brother of former Ocala Trinity Catholic receiver Patrick Nelson, has also noticed the absence of senior Riley Cooper, who was selected in the 25th round of the Major League Baseball Draft in June by the Texas Rangers and is currently deciding whether to pursue a pro baseball career early, or stay for his senior season of football.

Cooper doesn't have the flashiest of stats, but Nelson pointed out it's the things he does away from the ball that have made him an intricate part of Florida's offense. Losing Cooper would be a major blow to the wideout unit.

"He's one of those hard-nose receivers that you don't find very often," Nelson said. "He brings a different element to this receiver group. He's something that we need on this team and we hope he decides to come back."

For now, Nelson is still basking in the excitement gained from the camaraderie he saw Friday.

"It's been a tough offseason camp, so I was a little worried about how the guys would come out here and how they would react to it," he said. "But when they saw the fans out here, once the lights turned on and the competitive nature came out of them, they really enjoyed it.

"It was a good day for us to come out one more time as a team and have fun with each other and be able to compete with each other before we put pads on and start hitting each other."

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