By Cindy Swirko
The time before the first game is played is the time for optimism, and that was the sentiment Saturday as hundreds of University of Florida football fans — and volleyball fans — got to meet the teams at the annual Fan Day.
“Fantastic,” “awesome,” “a sweep of the season” — those were some of the reactions and predictions from fans as they got autographs, snapped pictures with players and tried their hands and feet at throwing and kicking footballs in the team’s indoor practice facility.
The players were optimistic, too.
“I think we’re a very good team — more united,” said field goal kicker Eddy Pineiro, a fan favorite, as he helped kids try to boot one through the goal posts. “We’ve been to the SEC Championship — that united us and gave us confidence.”
Pineiro said he enjoys Fan Day for the chance to meet people who support the team. That support was one of the biggest surprises of his freshman season last year.
“It was crazier than I expected. I didn’t think people would be calling my name,” he said.
Some of the players mingled with the crowd, posing for pictures and helping kids at various activities. Other players sat at tables to give autographs.
Cheerleaders, majorettes and, of course, Albert and Alberta joined in.
Some fans had a plan — they sought out particular players for autographs or pictures. Others just met whoever they happened to see.
Relatives of players traveled from several states. They were optimistic about the season as well.
“We try to come here for all of the games,” said Keondria Moon who, along with her sister Leah, came from Alabama to support their brother, Jeremiah Moon. “I think this is going to be a really good season. We’re all excited about it.”
Karena Duncan of North Carolina took a selfie with her nephew, T.J. Moore.
“I had to drive down for it but I didn’t want to miss Fan Day,” Duncan said. “I’m so proud of him and the way he has grown since he’s been here.”
The Gators’ first game is Sept. 2 against Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Volleyball fans also got to meet the team and get a first look at the new court in the renovated O’Connell Center. UF played a match against Coastal Carolina before holding an autograph session.