25 Best Moments in The Swamp: No. 12 — The title celebration

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Former National Championship Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel hugs Tim Tebow during the Gator National Championship Celebration at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Jan. 11, 2009. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun/File/

It was June of 1992 when Steve Spurrier, fresh off Florida’s first official SEC title, called The Sun columnist Mike Bianchi with a new name for the stadium that would eventually bear his name.

The Swamp. 

In the years that followed, there have been some unbelievable games and players. Sun writers Pat Dooley and Robbie Andreu came up with their rankings of the 25 best moments since 1992 when Spurrier gave it that moniker. 

No. 12 — Jan. 11, 2009

The celebration

The set-up: The Gators and about 42,000 of their fans gathered in The Swamp on this date, only two days after UF beat Oklahoma in the BCS national title game, to celebrate the program’s third national championship and second in three years. The Gators had reached the championship game by outscoring Alabama 14-0 in the fourth quarter of the SEC title game to pull out a 31-20 victory. In the national title game, the Gators beat the high-powered Sooners 24-14 behind quarterback Tim Tebow, wide receiver Percy Harvin and a suffocating defense.

The moment: Many Florida fans showed up at The Swamp not only to celebrate but to also possibly to say goodbye to Tebow, one of the most beloved players in UF history who was contemplating an early exit to the NFL along with Harvin and star junior linebacker Brandon Spikes. Near the end of the celebration, Tebow, with former national championship quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Chris Leak standing right behind him, took the mic to address the standing and cheering crowd. What he said triggered the loudest and most raucous moment of the day — a celebration within a celebration.

 The result: Tebow started out by saying, “It was one of the best decisions of my entire life to come here to the University of Florida. I want to thank coach (Urban) Meyer for giving me an opportunity to be a Gator. I love him, he’s like a father figure to me. I want to thank all these coaches. I want to thank my players. I love you guys. Thanks for all the memories.” Tebow paused and then delivered the biggest news of the day: “Oh, by the way, let’s do it again! I’m coming back!” The Swamp became an insane asylum.

The quote: “I just remember working so hard in that offseason. It was one of the hardest I ever had in my life. I remember doing the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. I remember we were doing 180-something pushups for (Georgia running back Knowshon) Moreno rushing for all those yards against us (in 2007). A bunch of crazy things. Ultimately, it made us a better team and a closer one and gave us memories we’ll never forget.

 “(The celebration) was awesome. I remember going back to The Swamp and hanging out with our fans and cheering on our national championship with the people who loved us and believed in us, just getting out there and being able to bring home a championship for the city of Gainesville again, back to Title Town. I still have my ring on today.

 “I found out (Tebow) was staying before (the celebration). He came up to me and Major (Wright) and was like, ‘Hey, when I announce I’m coming back I want you guys to come and embrace me.’ That’s  what you see in some of the pictures, me coming on stage and embracing him.” — safety Ahmad Black, who had a crucial interception in the second half in the win over Oklahoma.

Editor’s note: You have one Swamp game moment that comes to mind? Tell us what it is.Maybe it’s already on our Top 25 list. We’ll update readers on top moments from fans as the countdown proceeds.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Well as an aging Gator now, the 1st National Championship celebration was the best for me. It was a ”burr” cold day. But Coach Spurrier warmed all of our Orange & Blue hearts when he got the entire Swamp to chant, ”We’re #1! We’re #1, We’re #1…” And he encouraged us to say it so loud that all the Gator fans in Heaven could hear us. It still gives me goose bumps thinking about it. Props to the 2006-’08 Gator Football teams, 2 N.C.’s and a Heisman, but that cold January day in 1997 will always be my favorite N.C. celebration. Go Gators!

  2. I don’t remember it being cold that day In 97, but i still remember the goose bumps from watching the highlights of Danny’s career while they were playing “son of a preacher man”. I guess it’s true you never forget your first. Go Gators

    • You ever try those 6×60 La Flor Dominica Double Ligeros I recommended, Jaws? Just wondering, won’t hurt my feelings if you didn’t — I’m pretty much limited to an occasional Oliva Nub these days, which while only 4.5X60 takes me 2-3 days to smoke.

  3. Unfortunately 2009 brings back memories of the start of the fall. Had a great year, undefeated, then lost (badly) to Bama in the SECC game. Meyer quit, was talked back into staying for the 2010 season, which was ( at that point Gator Standards) a pedestrian season, and the end of Meyer, and the beginning for a series of Coaches leading up to our current Coach Mullen. Happy/Sad/Happy, but ALWAYS happy to be a Florida Gator!

    • These are best “moments”, not “and they lived happily ever after” endings. If you look at all of Gator history, 2009 was still a pretty great season overall. I am sorry that the fact that we lost one game in 2009 mars your ability to enjoy moments from the 2008 season and post-season celebration…

      • Is THAT what you drew from my memory musings…?? Dang, I’m losing my ability to convey subject in prose. I’m still rereading my post trying to find where I wrote that a 12-1 season caused me disappointment. I DO see where I stated “Had a great year”, perhaps that has different connotation for different folks?

        However, if you read the posts from all of the “25 Best Moments…” series, I think you’ll find fellow Gators reminiscing about this and that, where they were, what they were doing while we wait the two months for the start of Gator football. Jaws was smoking a cigar, Sparky remembers being cold, 70×7 is reminded of our first NC. I’ve been enjoying reading my fellow Gator’s posts… Perhaps you will too? Who knows?

      • Damn GoGators — what burr got on your saddle? Count me in c Gelco, I’m somewhat enjoying this series though not as much as I thought I would……because I find myself focusing more on where we’re going instead of where we’ve been. You sorry for me too?

        • Naw, don’t feel sorry for ya, think Texas is a fine state to live in, and know you’re keeping the Gator fires burning out there, letting them know that the Big 12 isn’t all that (though it IS a tougher conference (in my opinion) than any other except perhaps the big 10)