25 Best Moments in The Swamp: No. 15 — ‘I Won’t Back Down’

Florida fans sing "I Won't Back Down," in honor of Tom Petty during the Gators Homecoming game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

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. 15 — Oct. 7, 2017

 “I Won’t Back Down” 

The set-up: On Monday, Oct. 2, the shocking news that Gainesville’s favorite son Tom Petty passed away at age 66 rocked the Gator Nation. Even those who weren’t big Petty fans had a favorite Petty song. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, himself a big Petty fan, gathered his staff together to come up with something to honor the fallen star during the game Saturday against LSU.

The moment: At the end of the third quarter, the Florida band traditionally plays “We Are The Boys”, a former dance number that became a long-time tradition at UF games. On this day it would be followed by “I Won’t Back Down”, the perfect anthem from Petty about standing up for yourself in the face of possible oppression. With the fans screaming the lyrics provided on the video boards, it was a cathartic moment despite some interference from the LSU band.

The result: The bad news is that Florida lost that game to LSU 17-16, but the tradition lived on and was even better the next week at home against Texas A&M with phone lights swaying back and forth around the stadium. Again, Florida lost that game so the new tradition had to fight through some adversity and not back down.

The quote: “He passed away on a Monday and we felt he meant a lot to Gainesville and we knew we needed to do something. We thought about a moment of silence but that didn’t seem appropriate for someone like him (a singer). It has really become the perfect complement coming right after “We Are the Boys.” — Stricklin.

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.


    • I know there’s bad blood between LSU and UF. But before we accuse LSU of malicious behavior, what is the protocol for the bands or music playing during games and did UF stay within the rules? If UF went outside the protocol, do we have a statement from someone at UF that they had clearly communicated the plan to LSU beforehand and got an agreement from someone at the proper level?

      • Good question. Seems like we’re getting mad because the visiting band wants to play. What would we say this year if LSU took the whole third quarter break and said don’t play “We Are the Boys”? I have no love for LSU but let’s get over this.

  1. LSU had Keith Hornsby, son of Bruce, on their basketball team, so they could play “The Way It Is” but it’s not close to the Tom Petty rocker song “I Won’t Back Down.” Plus LSU sucks, but that’s just the way it is.

    I grew up in Gainesville and loved Mudcrutch and then TP and the Heartbreakers. Worked with Benmont’s sister at the UF registrar’s office for a semester, and Tom’s brother, Bruce, had a propane account where my ex-wife worked and came in monthly to pay the bill at Davis Gas.

    Mike Zunino, former UF catcher, uses “I Won’t Back Down” for his walk up song to home plate playing for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    I miss Tom. Such a creative spirit. I teared up at the first tribute during the football game.

    Gone Gator. 🙁