Florida’s Top 10 return men

Florida's Brandon James runs back a punt return for a touchdown against The Citadel in the third quarter at Florida Field on Nov. 22, 2008. The touchdown was called back because of a holding penalty. (Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun)

So here was the idea. In 2006, we ranked the top 100 Florida football players on the 100th anniversary of Florida football. A lot of players have been stars since then, so let’s re-rank them. But that would mean kicking some of those players to the curb. So instead, we give you this as you try to take your minds off things — the Top 10 Gators at each position over the last 114 years of football. This is the 13h of a 13-part series.

Today — Return men.

  1. Brandon James (2006-09) — The only returner in UF history to earn All-America honors (2008), James was deadly in the open field with the ball in his hands. He returned four punts and one kickoff for touchdowns in his career. He was the SEC’s special teams player of the year his junior season in which he averaged 28.0 yards a kickoff return and 18.1 yards a punt return.
  2. Andre Debose (2010-14) –– He never came close to being the next Percy Harvin at wide receiver, but he made quite a name for himself as one of the best return men to play at UF. He returned four kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns.
  3. Jacquez Green (1995-97) — An electric returner in both phases of the kicking game, Green had four punt returns for touchdowns in his career. The highlight came when he went back-to-back for TDs on punt returns against Kentucky in 1996.
  4. Lito Sheppard (1999-2001) — He owns probably the most memorable punt return in school history. It came on the final play of the first half against South Carolina and sparked a comeback victory to give the Gators the SEC East title in 2000.
  5. Hal Griffin (1946-47) — Because records before the early 1950s are sketchy, many probably don’t know much after Griffin. But he has the two longest punt returns in UF history (97 and 87 yards) and four of the 21 longest.
  6. Antonio Callaway (2015-16) — In a somewhat troubled and sporadic career, Callaway managed to make some huge, game-changing plays as a receiver and return man. He returned two punts for TDs in his career, one against Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
  7. Bo Carroll (1997-2000) — One of the fastest players ever to wear the orange and blue, Carroll used that speed to return two kickoffs for touchdowns, one that went for 100 yards on the opening kickoff at LSU in 1999, sparking a 31-10 UF win.
  8. Steve Tannen (1967-69) — Just like on defense at cornerback and safety, Tannen was a playmaker on special teams, with two career punt returns for touchdowns.

9. Jackie Simpson (1956-58) — An elusive open-field runner, Simpson returned two punts for TDs in his career. He averaged 17.3 yards a punt return in his senior season.

  1. Ricky Nattiel (1983-86) — Ricky “The Rocket” had game-breaking ability as a receiver and returner. He had a huge senior season in the return game, averaging 26.2 yards a kickoff return and 15.7 yards a punt return with one touchdown.