Dooley: Grantham, Henry part of rivalry’s passion

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Florida kicker Chas Henry is hoisted on the shoulders of his teammates after kicking the game-winning field goal in overtime against Georgia at Everbank Field in Jacksonville on Oct. 30, 2010. The Gators won 34-31. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

It was during the grind of camp in the summer, when you turn the AC down into the 60s and beg for shade. The Gator staff was meeting in different rooms in the football section of the stadium, trying to figure out third-and-5.

John Hevesy, the Florida offensive line coach, stuck his head in the defensive meeting room.

“Hey, Gran, you have a visitor,” he said.

Todd Grantham looked up. It was time for a break. Whoever it is, sure, bring him in.

Chas Henry walked into the room, his right hand around his neck making a choke sign.

“We joked about it,” Henry said. “We had a good time with it. He was a great sport about it.”

Time heals a lot.

“I tried to get a Twitter picture with him but something was wrong with my phone or his phone,” Grantham said. “He was going to teach me how to Gator chomp.”

There was laughter in the room that day, but to understand why this was both funny and ironic, you have to have at least a recent understanding about Florida-Georgia history.

And the realization that college football does indeed have strange bedfellows.

It was 2010, Florida was slumping — losers of three straight games — in Urban Meyer’s last season at UF. The Gators had to win to keep their East hopes alive (hopes that would be extinguished by Steve Spurrier of all people two weeks later, which is another story for another time).

The Florida-Georgia game was between two unranked teams with seven losses between them. But it still mattered and it looked like Florida would win in overtime when Will Hill picked off a pass and ran it back 89 yards. But he went out of bounds at the 4-yard line, so Florida had to go back to the 25 and start its OT possession.

Three plays went six yards and on came Chas Henry to try to win the game from 37 yards. Henry was the punter and backup kicker until Caleb Sturgis was lost for the season before the Alabama game.

“I practiced now and then,” he said. “It wasn’t a complete shock (against Georgia). But it was a shock when he told me Caleb was out for the year and I was the kicker.

“I had missed a kick against LSU (4-point loss) and one against Mississippi State (3-point loss). So I really wanted to make that kick to help the team.”

Georgia called time out. As Henry waited on the field for the biggest kick of his life. He heard someone yelling on the sideline.

He looked over to the west bench and Georgia’s defensive coordinator — now Florida’s defensive coordinator — was making a choke sign and screaming, “You’re gonna bleepin’ choke!”

“The real story on that thing is we were trying to change the identity at Georgia and they hadn’t beaten Florida in a long time,” Grantham said. “After that turnover (in overtime), one of our players came off the field and said, ‘We’re gonna lose again.’ And I told him we weren’t. We were going to block the damn kick. That’s when I got fired up.”

The scene on the field was almost comedic. With the game on the line, here was a Georgia coach and the kicker who would decide the game jawing back and forth.

“I really didn’t know who it was,” Henry said. “I just saw a guy in a red and black shirt yelling at me. I think I gave him a little back, I’m sure it was about the same things he was saying to me. Blew him a kiss maybe.

“It was just two passionate people. That’s what the game is all about. Especially Florida-Georgia.”

Yep, emotions run high for this game, even when the two teams are wallowing in mediocrity like they were eight years ago.

Wait, I buried the lead. But most of you already know the outcome.

Henry buried the kick right down the middle and Florida won 34-31 to make it 18-of-21 against the ’Dogs.

“It was a feeling of relief more than anything,” Henry said.

“He sunk it,” Grantham said.

So much has changed since that night. Meyer is at Ohio State. Dan Mullen, who told me about the incident “I remember seeing it,” was at Mississippi State at the time and is now a head coach in this game for the first time.

And, of course, Florida fans hope the man who once screamed at their kicker to choke can come up with a defense to slow down the defending SEC champs.

Strange days indeed

most peculiar, Mama.

“I’m excited he’s on the staff,” said Henry, who spent three years in the NFL and is now working for a hotel and resort management company in Tampa. “That’s the coaching carousel. They always say never burn your bridges.”

That’s why they could all laugh this summer when Henry walked into the defensive staff meeting with his hand around his throat.

They are on the same team now.

Strange days indeed.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I remember thinking that it was one of the most classless things I had ever seen a coach do in college football at the time, but hey , I guess it could have been worse. At least he didn’t run on the field and try to block the kick ! ( anybody remember Woody Hayes or Tommy Lewis ? ) We can all laugh about it now and I love the guys passion for the game. He was the most excited person in the stadium when Stiner got the sack on Fitz in Starkvegas !!

    • The reaction to these situations all depends on which side of the fence you’re on. Had he been the DC for MSU and Sweat sacked Franks to win the game and he was going crazy on the sidelines like he was, Gator fans would’ve hated him for it, instead we all loved seeing it. If he were to do the choke sign to the UGA kicker on Saturday, we’d all probably find it hilarious, but since it was done to our team it’s classless. I’m sure most UGA fans loved when he did it, till it backfired. I’m sure OU fans loved seeing Mayfield slam the flag into the O in the horseshoe, but OSU fans hated him. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. I personally hope he shows a ton of emotion as his defense dominates UGA, since they’re the only fans of a school he coached that constantly bash him and claim he’s terrible.

  2. Good article, Arnold. And the quick reference to the U.S.C. game loss, ultimately losing the East was a bitter pill to swallow back then. But I do think of these times as more ”normal days.” As Spurrier and Mullen are both, quite properly in fact, sporting the Orange & Blue visors… again! Go Gators!

  3. we all do and say things we wish we hadnt. one year i got a seat behind the lsu bench. i had a good time berating the lsu players, including this one big lineman that eventually was an nfl first rounder, but got killed in a car wreck. he did look back at me but not in anger, a funny thing ive never forgotten. now i think of it as a sad day. at the time i was mad at lsu, over the bob hewko thing and the bird their qb alan risher number 3 fired at us that day.
    i still mouth off at lsu a little but you just cant hold a grudge forever, especially since they have such good food. if it were me id bring tulane back to the conference so we could go to louisiana twice as much.

  4. I didn’t like seeing a coach make the choking sign at a kid in college, no matter the team, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as when Mark Richt had the entire team rush the field after their first score against us.

  5. Just for fun I read what Georgia fans are saying about the Gators. Must admit it was no fun reading their trash talk, but some of those comments make good material for the Gator bulletin board in the locker room. Some dog fans are trashing Kirby for losing to LSU and trashing Jake Fromm for missing open receivers. Some are calling for Fields to be the starting QB. Well, reading those posts disproved my theory that dawg fans can’t read or write, although some don’t seem to know what a spellchecker is. Been to a lot of cocktail parties back in the day and I can assure you that the trash-talking dawg fans have not changed their tunes. If Gators win, they will blame their coaches, the refs, the play-calling, the QB play, etc. They will NEVER give credit to Florida players and coaches for being better. If Georgia wins, they will ALL claim they knew it all the time. LOL