Jefferson focused on mission rather than homecoming

Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson hauls in a 38-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter Saturday against Colorado State at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field. [Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun]

Van Jefferson’s friends back home could hardly wait until Florida had secured a 48-10 win over Colorado State to trade barbs.

The redshirt junior, who grew up in Brentwood, Tennessee, several hours west of Knoxville, is set to experience the Florida-Tennessee rivalry for the first time from the UF perspective on Saturday, but Jefferson is no stranger to the Volunteers and the Tennessee fanbase.

I went to high school in Tennessee, so, you know, all my close friends go to Tennessee, so it’s sort of (a homecoming), kind of,” Jefferson said. “They talk a little trash, but I got to block them out this week. I got to lock in.

“They talk a little bit on social media and stuff, some of my friends, you know I’ll get text messages and stuff. I won’t respond back.”

Through the first three weeks of the season, Jefferson has remained locked in, making an instant contribution to Florida’s offense each time he touches the ball. He leads all Gators in receptions with eight for 127 yards and has found the end zone more than any other target, with three receptions.

Despite being a native of Tennessee, and with two seasons of SEC football already under his belt, Jefferson will undergo a new experience Saturday, although his previous stops may have prepared him better than most.

“I never played in Neyland myself, but I played in places like Alabama and LSU and those stadiums are pretty loud,” Jefferson said. “People are telling me that’s nothing compared to what Tennessee is, but, I mean, just enjoy it. Just go out there and enjoy it, have fun. I like playing away games, personally.”

When Mullen implored the team to channel their inner Dr. Bruce Banner outside of football-related activities and bring a Hulk-like intensity to the field, Jefferson didn’t need to recalibrate his mindset, or anything about his approach for that matter. Once Jefferson steps off the field, he’s cool, calm and collected.

“I think to just relax. That’s the most part of it. You know, just not getting over hyped about it, just taking it one day at a time, basically,” Jefferson said. “I’m pretty sure when the game comes, I’ll be pretty pumped and have a lot of adrenaline going, so I’ve just got to keep myself calm.”

It would be easy to forgive Jefferson for feeling more pressure in the week leading up to Florida’s first road game than he typically faces. He said he expects many friends and family members in attendance at Neyland Stadium, including his two-year-old daughter.

“I think she (knows when I’m playing),” Jefferson said. “When I scored in the first game, they got a video of her cheering and stuff like that. She’s got to understand when her dad’s playing. When she gets older, she’ll understand.”

The outside noise is just that rather than a distraction, and Jefferson doesn’t plan on letting anything come in the way of his goal of emerging victorious.

“It’s just another opportunity to go out there and get a win,” Jefferson said. “Of course I’m happy to go back to see some of my friends, but other than that, I’m going in there on a mission.”



    • I would vote for the Vol fans, TJ……based on some personal experience with them over the years and more recently, the reports of Jim Sey and Rog who are both on the scene and in touch with the general mood/affect/thinking in Knoxville. But I don’t know, college football fan bases have changed an awful lot in the last 25 years or so, consistent with the temper of the times and cultural shifts in general as to acceptable deportment, and sometimes I wonder even about our own fan base in some instances. I think we are, however, better “sportsmen” on the main than most.

      The Titans? Or any professional team for that matter? I couldn’t care less as I love amateur athletics–so far at least. Just my own opinion, but you asked and even tho I’m sure a lecture will follow by someone, interesting question.

  1. So glad we have Van Jefferson – he has already contributed greatly to the Gator football team. Praying that the Gators will be prepared and up for this very important rivalry game. We were fortunate to beat UT last year at home. Now we face a hungry UT at one of the largest stadiums in the country. GO GATORS!!!

    • A hard fought win on the road against a rival could be just what this team needs. It won’t get any easier after the trip to Knoxville, but a win will go a long way towards restoring faith in themselves and the fan base as well. At this point, this is the only game that matters. Go Gators! Let’s continue our dominance over the Vols!

  2. The only thing I have discovered FOR SURE about this team? We will learn something about them every week….Hopefully the lesson this week will be highly positive! This will be my first trip to Neyland. It would be great to not hear Rocky flop in the fourth quarter…