Brantley is 'the man'


John Brantley's three-year wait to become UF's starting QB ends on Saturday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, August 30, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 12:09 a.m.

Watching John Brantley confidently and efficiently lead the Florida offense in a recent practice, Urban Meyer felt compelled to send Brantley's father, former UF quarterback John Brantley III, a text message.

“I'll share it with you, because I'm awful proud of this,” Meyer said at his weekly news conference Monday. “I said, ‘Enjoy the ride. Your son has grown up to be a man.'

“I hope I get that same text some day from someone. That's really cool. It's the truth. What he's done here in the last year has been exactly what we needed to have happen, and that is he's grown up. He's the leader of this team, and he's Johnny Brantley. That's good enough for us.”

Johnny Brantley is Florida's starting quarterback now. After spending three long years in Tim Tebow's shadow, he's stepped out and taken over. And he has done it the way Meyer hoped he would, by growing into a team leader and taking command of the offense and earning the respect of those around him.

This is Brantley's team now, and he's ready to start that ride.

“I'm feeling really good,” Brantley said. “We've just been through a long camp and we're ready to get out there and start playing again, start making our way to Atlanta (for the SEC Championship Game).

“I've waited for three years. I'm very excited for this one moment to come, with the team I'm going to be with. I'm very excited.”

And a little nervous, he said.

Brantley has run out of the tunnel many times in The Swamp. But never like this. Never as Florida's starting quarterback.

“I try not to think about it too much, so I don't get too nervous,” he said. “It's going to be real nerve-wracking running out there the first time (as the starter). But if you're not nervous, something is wrong.

“I'm excited. I can't wait for Saturday to come.”

The excitement runs throughout the Brantley family in Ocala. John Brantley III started at quarterback for the Gators in the late 1970s, while John's uncle, Scot, was a standout linebacker at UF (1976-79).

“My dad has been real excited these past few years,” Brantley said. “Now, he's more excited that I'm going to be stepping on the field. We were playing golf (Sunday), and he was just saying he's really excited. It's been a long wait and it's finally here.”

Brantley, of course, is replacing a legend. As expected, he's been served a steady diet of Tebow questions dating back to last winter.

The way he's effectively handled the Tebow stuff says a lot about him, Meyer said.

“He's handled it probably as good as anybody I've ever seen,” Meyer said. “The guy in front of him handled questions pretty well, too. But Johnny. ... the way he's handled this. I love his statement: ‘I'm just a regular guy from Ocala playing quarterback.' That's very good. That's exactly who he is.”

Brantley was asked Monday if he'd like the coaches to open Saturday's game with a deep pass, just to settle his nerves.

“I wouldn't mind it,” he said. “With the adrenalin pumping, I might be able to throw it through the stadium. Who knows.”

Brantley is known for his NFL-like arm. But handing off is fine, too, he said.

“We're going to try and be as balanced as we can be with our great running backs, with Jeff Demps and Emmanuel Moody,” he said. “I feel good handing the ball off. I like watching them run. They're fast guys.

“And with the receivers we've got, we can spread it out. We're just going to try and be as balanced as we can. Whatever is working, we'll keep doing it.”

Like Meyer said in his text to John Brantley III, it's time to start enjoying the ride.

“My dad mentioned (the text) to me, saying coach Meyer is saying positive things about me,” Brantley said. “He said, ‘Keep it up, and keep getting better.' We're going to try and enjoy it as much as we can.”

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreur@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

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