This one's for you, Dad

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For a lifelong Gator fan whose nemesis (and biggest rival) over the years was Georgia, how’s this for the perfect birthday present: A game ball from Florida’s overtime victory over Georgia, presented by UF coach Urban Meyer.

That’s what happened to my father on Monday, on what would have been his 88th birthday. In a wonderful and greatly appreciated gesture, Meyer opened his weekly Monday press conference by presenting a game ball to me in honor of the real Robbie Andreu, who died on Oct. 21.

Words can’t express how much this means to my family — and what it would have meant to may Dad, who was on the Florida freshman football team in 1941 before leaving school to enlist in the Army Air Corps shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7 of that year. He flew 35 missions in a B-17 over Europe as a bombardier (he nearly had to parachute out once with the rest of the crew when an engine was hit and caught fire). He returned to UF after World War II on the G.I. Bill and earned his UF law degree in 1949. He spent the rest of his life in his beloved hometown of St. Augustine, practicing law and later becoming a county judge. And he was (and actually still is) a Florida football season-ticket holder dating back to the early 1950s.

No one loved the Gators more than my Dad (he even painted his car orange and blue in the 1980s and drove it until it was falling apart, then replaced it with another Gator car). And no Gator fan suffered more over the years. I remember sitting in the living room with him after Georgia ruined yet another season for the Gators in 1975. He kept saying over and over, “I’ll never live to see it, I’ll never live to see it.” And he was talking about the Gators winning the SEC, which they had never done to that point. I remember saying to him, “You’re right, you probably won’t. I probably won’t either.”

But, of course he did live to see it — and much more. In the last 20 years of my Dad’s life, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer and a lot of great players made him one happy Gator. During that time, he saw the Gators win eight SEC titles and three national titles (one in person).

I only wish he could have seen what happened Saturday in Jacksonville. And what happened on Monday in Gainesville, when Meyer handed me that game ball in his honor. He would have been thrilled beyond words. One thing’s for sure, that football will be treasured for many years to come by those my father left behind.

From my Dad, from all of us, thank you, Urban Meyer.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Robbie, thank you for your great words about a good man, your father. It’s apparent he means the world to you as your Dad and friend. May God comfort and bless you and your family with memories, assurances of love and hope.

  2. My sincere condolences to you and your family, Robbie.
    I always knew Coach Meyer was a class-act and his tribute to your DAD sounds like it was a moment that you will never forget…AGAIN, my condolences to you and your family! I remember that car!!!

    ~gatorgi70x7

  3. Great story Robbie, thanks for sharing! I too thought that was a class act from Urban. My step-father was a diehard Gator and lived long enough to see the SOS period of wins over rivals, SEC championships and the NC, before he died in 1999. It means so much to those who have been around the program a while. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  4. My Dad graduated in 1949, was a UF Letterman and after that graduated from UF Law School. He started taking me to games when I was 3, I graduated in 1974 and my daughter in 2009. My Dad turned 88 on Friday so I have great admiration for this story as he can no longer attend games but he will never give up his beloved season tickets, nor will I. If it were up to my Dad his ashes would be spread across the “F” at the 50 yard line when he passes which hopefully won’t be for quite a while. This is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing a heartwarming story and thanks Urban!

  5. I am the proud daughter of Jay Schneider and the extremely proud granddaughter of Al Schneider, that 1949 UF Graduate. I was born bleeding orange and blue, with one life goal, to continue my family legacy of attending The University of Florida just as my mother, father, both grandfathers, aunts, uncle, and cousins had. I entered UF in 2005 and followed in the footsteps of my mother, by pledging Delta Phi Epsilon Sorority, and followed in the footsteps of my grandfather, Al by being tapped into Florida Blue Key. Being a Gator, and all of my accomplishments during my time at The University of Florida, are memories which both myself, and my entire family will cherish forever. Since graduating, I have moved to Chicago, where I have continued to be a proud member of “The Gator Nation” but cheering on the Gators at the local Gator bar whenever I get the opportunity. Stories like this make me so proud to be a Gator. The University of Florida truly isn’t just a school, in my family being a Gator is a way of life.

  6. Robbie,

    Our dads have something in common: yours died on my dad’s birthday. Sounds like your dad was an awesome person: a good dad, a fair judge, a war hero, and a diehard Gator fan! You should be really proud of him and I can see from your writings and from your humble demeanor that your dad did a good job raising you.
    I encourage you this not be the last time you write a story about your dad to keep his memory and his legacy fresh in the minds of those who knew him and those who just learned about how special he was.
    That goes to all of us to be real men today and tell our dads how much we love them for all that they have done for us.
    Coach Meyer showed lots of class in acknowledging the passing of your dad Robbie and I am glad you had a chance to represent your old man that day along your family. That’s what is about being part of Gator Nation.
    May the Lord bless you and your family and may your days in Gatorsports be long to continue bringing your analysis and opinions about our beloved Alma Mater team…The Florida Gators!!!

  7. Hey Robbie,
    I saw Chris Lowe’s article on ESPN referencing your post on your dad so I checked it out. I just wanted to say he was a great man and it is awesome that he received such an honor as that game ball. I’m no Gator fan, but I love to hear great people being recognized for their accomplishments, their devotion, and their passion. Your dad did a lot, that’s for sure. He answered the bell when his country needed him and came back to make a difference in his community. I love hearing how he was a fan to the end. Being a Gamecock fan I know how troubling that can be. But he was rewarded wasn’t he? The Gators made something of themselves over the last two decades, even if they’re struggling a bit this year. Anyway, I just wanted to say that you come from great stock. I would love to hear more stories about your dad if you decide to reminesce. God bless you.

    PS. Since your dad is gone do you think he would mind if the Gamecocks won the SEC East this year? 🙂

  8. As a Vol fan I know how you felt those years and as an SEC fan what a classy move by a great coach. In this one case I have to say something that you will never hear from me again, because of such a classy gesture, GO GATORS!!!

    Greg Go VOLS!!!

  9. Robbie — that was a nice tribute
    you wrote about your Dad. I was sorry
    to hear from Chris about your loss,
    but it is clear that you shared many
    good memories and that he would
    be proud of your career and accomplish-
    ments. And Urban Meyer and UF are
    a class act to recognize your loss. I
    miss seeing you but hope we can get
    together again one of these days. My
    best wishes and condolences to you and
    your family. Ralph Harry

  10. Robbie……Chris forwarded your lovely column to me. What a nice
    tribute to your Father. It’s always nice to read about or read the
    writings of Chris’s friends. Take care of yourself and sympathy for you and your family. Helen Page Harry

  11. Robbie,
    I called my dad just after the final of the 1997 Sugar Bowl. He was clearly crying because we were on top of the world after all those years of suffering. He died a few months later, and I have no doubt a blowout win for a national championship over the Noles made it a little easier. Sorry for you loss.

  12. Wow…that is really special. My dad passed last year. He took me to my first Gator game and became a 20 year season ticket holder. With soooo many fond memories of Gator football and time with my dad, I can imagine how much that meant to you. God Bless you and your family during this difficult time.

    For all the grief Meyer has taken over the last few weeks, this is a great reminder to the Gator Nation of the type of man that is leading our program. As a Die Hard Gator, I am glad he is our coach and hope he sticks around for a long time.

  13. Robbie,
    Thank you so much for the story and letting us Gators be a part of your family. Not only was your father a great individual but I can see he installed that in you too. God Bless and thank you for all the work you do. I love to read your stories and none are better than this one!!!!!!!

  14. Robbie,
    I am so sorry about your dad’s passing…he had always been such a special friend to my dad and our family. We visited last year at my dad’s 90th birthday and they regaled us with stories of St. Augustine from the 1950’s!! I was unaware of his Gator passion…something else we would have had in common! What a wonderful story…thanks for sharing.
    Raya Bugeski McArthur

  15. What a wonderful tribute to your father. The UF-GA game you reference was a big one between my father and also. I played in that game and as I met my parents after the game my father lingered back, then I saw he was crying and laughing at the same time. I had never seen him cry before. Then I realized he wasn’t crying for his own pain and frustration but for mine because he knew how important being the first SEC football champion was to me, which would have been the case. We both also experienced the same frustration your dad did.
    Lesson learned,..don’t ever be afraid to express your love to your family, however it may come out. God Bless you and your family.

  16. Robbie, sorry for your dad’s passing and my deepest sympathy goes out to you and your family. Your Dad’s story is the epitome of the American Dream lived out by so many, yet does not lose it’s deep meaning and significance, despite being so common place here in the God Blessed USA. No where else in the World can someone of modest means pull themselves up by the own boot straps and become a Judge! In most of the World and throughout history most people’s fate is decided merely by who their parents happened to be. God Bless you, your Dad, your family and everyone that may happen to read this.

  17. Robbie,

    Just want to say that I am sorry to hear of the loss of your Dad. I was fortunate to sit next to him at a game a few years ago and he spoke very highly of you and was a pleasure to speak with. Grace and Peace to you.

  18. Your comments reference your dad flying 35 missings was not ovelooked. You must read Stephen Ambrose’s The Wild Blue if not already done so to understand the person and commitment your dad made to this country and obviously to his family and career after the war.

    If he did not discuss details of these 35 missions you will certinly find them in this book!
    Good Bless!

  19. Robbie, I breifly met your dAd last year while I was camping at Camp Blanding. I had a gator shirt on while I was walking one afternoon thru the campgrounds and met your dad as he was taking a walk also. We both stopped and started talking about the gators. He told me he lived in St Augustine, had been a Judge and that he had a son who wrote for the Ginesville Sun. He spoke of how proud he was of family and that he had been a GATOR all his life. I only met him that one time, but I often thought of him when I would read one of your articles. I’m sorry for your loss and wish you and your family the best. May God Bless you and your family!

  20. God bless you and your family Robbie. Coach Meyer’s gesture and your thoughts really touched me. My Dad was a Navy man who served in World War II. He passed away back in ’84 but I still miss him.

    As a fellow veteran, who endured nothing compared to what your father endured in World War II, I am very proud of the honor bestowed on the Andreu family, and the respect given to them, by Urban Meyer.

    As we elect new leaders, we should all think about the freedoms we have in this country, and the sacrifices of those who keep us free.

    God bless America.

    David Hand
    Tallahassee

  21. I found this through Chris Low’s blog on espn.com. That is a touching story and appreciated even for a Dawg fan. As someone that grew up in Jacksonville in the 80’s and watched those tough losses for UF and big wins for UGA it is great to hear stories like this and just how big the rivalry is and will always be. It was a fun exciting game on Saturday and is always a treat to be at even in the losses. Congrats on all your success against the Dawgs recently and as I use to hear from all my Gator friends in the 80s…”Wait til next year”

  22. Warmest wishes and thoughts for you and your family. Losing a father is one of the hardest things that anyone has to go through. Please know that I am with you and your family with my prayers and respect greatly the empliary life that your father led. God bless you.

  23. Robbie, Please accept our condolences in the passing of your Dad.He was an incredible man…leaving a memorable legacy to his family.

    Pete sent the link to access your blog….can you imagine that…all the way from China??!!!

    Urban Meyer presenting you with the game ball following last Saturday’s OT victory against the Bulldogs,was first class!

    Thank you for sharing with your readers,something so personal.

    Our love and prayers to you and your family,
    Wes and Elaine

  24. After growing up on wait until next year with the Gators it was tremendously touching to go to the Fiesta Bowl. Though we all know how that turned out, what I REALLY remember was how cool it was to see all the Gator Geezers who NEVER thought they’d live to see their beloved Gators playing for the national championship.
    The following year in New Orleans was obviously a LOT more fun and again so touching to see all the lifetime Gators rejoicing. I think our success is that much sweeter because of the all the years of waiting.

  25. Robbie, I knew your dad for many years, being with him for many lunches at the St. Augustine Sports club (I was president for three years) and from my job as City Attorney for St. Augustine from 1995 to 2007. He was a great guy and I will miss him, even though I am a avid Seminole (which your dad used to give me a hard time about). He was an absolutely great guy, always kind, but I never knew of his war record until I read the article on his passing. Wish I could have thanked him for that! Please accept my deepest condolences. I will think of him and his Gatormobile as I watch the game in Tallahassee next week. I just hope he isn’t guiding Brantley’s passes that day!