Dooley: Underrated Ivie out to leave mark
Published: Friday, December 30, 2016 at 4:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 30, 2016 at 4:09 p.m.
TAMPA — You know where he'd rather be because he's a competitor. His engine runs louder than an old truck with an amplifying muffler.
So he'd rather be in Glendale or Atlanta getting ready to play in a College Football Playoff semifinal game today.
But all things considered, this isn't a bad alternative for Joey Ivie.
“At the end of the day, it sucks that we didn't get where we wanted to go,” Ivie said. “For me personally, it's a blessing to be here, to be able to be in a bowl game, have another opportunity to showcase and an opportunity to play at home. I probably have 20 people coming, friends and family-wise.”
Ivie played his high school football at Dade City Pasco about 40 miles from downtown Tampa. But this is his birthplace because he was born at a hospital near Raymond James Stadium.
“So it's pretty neat to play at the stadium,” Ivie said.
He grew up as a Bucs fan, but he has never attended a Tampa Bay game in the stadium. He did go to one Bucs practice and a South Florida game there.
Still, he is enough of a Bucs fan to be a little starstruck when former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden made an appearance at Florida's Wednesday practice.
“It was pretty neat to have Gruden out here,” Ivie said. “Me and Alex (Anzalone) were with him. It was neat to see him. I didn't watch too much NFL football growing up as a kid, but my family did like the Bucs. It was kind of neat to be able to see and meet him.”
So, yes, Ivie is enjoying his week getting ready for Monday's Outback Bowl, which is a good thing, because he deserves it.
I have felt for two years that the most underrated player on Florida's defense was Ivie because he plays with such relentless passion.
“Very underrated,” said Florida linebacker Kylan Johnson. “To me he is one of the best. He's made a lot of plays this year and last year.
“He does his job and that opens up plays for other people. That's what a lot of people don't see.”
His stats don't say “All-SEC” or put him on any watch lists -- 21 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries.
But just watch him.
The senior is going to be missed and he's going to miss playing at Florida.
“It hasn't hit me quite yet,” Ivie said. “I'm sure it will hit me the day of the game. I love everything about Florida. I'm glad to be a Gator and glad to be a part of this program. I think this program is headed in the right direction.
“You're leaving your mark here. I want to go out with a bang. I'm going to bust my butt these last couple of days leading up to the game because these are my last couple of days as a Gator.”
His journey has been littered with injuries, including thumb surgery that cost him two games in the middle of the season this year. His time at Florida also included the tragic death of his 17-year-old sister, Jordan, last April.
Yeah, I think he deserves a home bowl game.
One last day in the sunshine in front of people who care about him.
One final game with his brothers.
They are what he said he will miss the most once Monday is over.
“We're one big family,” Ivie said. “It's one thing when you get close to everybody and you're out there playing with your brothers. The chemistry, the brotherhood.
“These are a lot of guys you're going to stay friends with the rest of your life. You'll never forget all the friendships that you made. You know how Florida football is. There has been a lot of ups and downs and a lot of us have gone through a lot together. It's funny to just start talking now and look back on the past and be like, 'Wow, look where we made it. Look how far we came.' Especially compared to people that left or transferred.”
In a way, Ivie has been the face of buying into what Jim McElwain came here to sell.
It's what you would expect from a guy who didn't start playing football until his freshman year of high school and was a mere three-star recruit coming out of high school.
Underrated or undervalued, it beats the alternative.
“It's a compliment,” Ivie said. “I feel like that's how people have talked about me my whole life, my whole football career basically from high school to college people have called me underrated. I think that I am.
“When I get to the next level, I want to take advantage of every little thing so people will be like, 'Wow, that kid was underrated.' ”
He deserves that, too.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.
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