Seniors look for sweet end

Florida's Tim Tebow sets to throw during the first quarter against the Florida State Seminoles in Gainesville on Saturday, November 28, 2009.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 10:45 p.m.

While it is still undetermined if tonight's Sugar Bowl will be Urban Meyer's last game as Florida's coach, this will be the final Gator game for a very successful group of seniors.

Made up of more than 20 players, Florida's senior class is the winningest in SEC history, posting a 47-7 record that included a 22-game winning streak.

It's a class that features a hard-nosed teacher in linebacker Ryan Stamper. A wild, yet sometimes playful bull of a middle linebacker in Brandon Spikes.

It claims a confident speed demon in receiver Riley Cooper and a father figure/lunch-pail-toting wideout in David Nelson.

Of course the real prize is Heisman Trophy-winning, do-everything quarterback Tim Tebow.

When Florida (12-1) takes the field against Cincinnati (13-0) today, the man known around college football as "Superman" will don his orange-and-blue cape for the final time.

"It'll be fun. It'll be exciting to go play for the last time as a Gator and have another opportunity to suit up and get that bad taste out of our mouth (from losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game)," Tebow said of his final game as Florida's quarterback. "Honestly, that would be really nice."

Tebow understands the spotlight will mostly be on his farewell, but he said a win tonight is important for his entire class.

"It means a lot (to win)," he said. "Not just for being my last game, but for all of our seniors. I want to go out the right way and finish the season 13-1."

Nelson said this week was full of weird emotions. He's excited about his final game in a UF uniform, but he's sad about leaving Florida. Still the seniors' minds revolve around Cincinnati, he said.

"It's bittersweet, knowing that this chapter of our lives is ending and now it's time to start a new one," Nelson said. "At the same time, we know we've got a task at hand. We know we've got a big game. Right now, our main focus is on winning this game. It's good to send the seniors out this way, but we know we've got to come out and win this last game."

Tebow says emotions will be flowing after tonight's game and like Nelson, he's upset at the thought of saying goodbye to the Gator Nation.

"I think that I kind of have mixed feelings," he said. "Finishing up the last game means starting a new chapter and closing another. I've always had a dream of playing quarterback in the NFL. It's a new challenge, but (I am) leaving something that's extremely special and something that will always be a part of me at the University of Florida. It's very exciting on one hand, but very tough on the other."

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