Florida quarterback Emory Jones should be cheered, not jeered

David Whitley
Gator Sports

TAMPA — Attention, Emory Jones observers. The Gasparilla Bowl will be the last chance to cheer or boo Florida’s quarterback.

If you’re tempted to do the latter, please hit the pause button.

First, imagine where the Gators would be without him. Jones announced last week he’s transferring. Countless other players have jumped in the portal and left their teams before bowl games.

Few left their teams as high and dry as Florida would be without Jones.

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With Anthony Richardson recovering from knee surgery, the Gators would have had to start a freshman quarterback who’s never taken a snap in college.

That would have made a nice early Christmas gift for UCF. It also would have allowed Jones to stick it to fans who couldn’t resist booing him this season.

Luckily for them, Ebenezer Scrooge is not in Jones’ style.

Dameon Pierce praises Jones' work ethic

“You shouldn’t have no worries about him giving his all to this team, because that’s just him,” Dameon Pierce said. “That’s just built into him.”

Florida quarterback Emory Jones warms up for the team's game against Missouri on Nov. 20 in Columbia, Mo. [AP Photo/L.G. Patterson]

The Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl could be a metaphor for the past four months of Jones’ life. He came into the season with dreams of being an Orange Bowl caliber QB.

Jones waited behind Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask

He’d certainly waited long enough for this chance. You probably know the story by now:

Big-time recruit. Apple of Dan Mullen’s eye. Bided his time behind Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. After three years, Jones was finally handed the keys to UF’s offense in 2021.

Jones was a smooth operator much of the time. He was almost heroic against Alabama. He rewrote UF’s record books in the Samford escape.

But sprinkled in were misreads and poor throws and 13 interceptions and audible grumbling.

Jones never seemed to learn from mistakes. Meanwhile, Richardson would rip a highlight-reel play to goose the drama. The QB controversy became the lead subplot for a season gone sideways.

After throwing three interceptions in the first half against FSU, Jones’ first pass of the second half hit an FSU defensive back squarely in the back of the helmet.

Ben Hill Griffin Stadium echoed in disapproval. Richardson was sent in.

It was painfully obvious Jones was a QB dream at Florida that was not going to come true.

“He’s had some highs and lows,” is how interim coach Greg Knox puts it.

But here’s the thing. No matter how low things got, Jones took the high road.

He owned up to his mistakes. He worked hard to eliminate them.

Anthony Richardson offered plenty of support

He and Richardson unfailingly supported each other, turning what could have been an awkward situation into a kinship. If the boos and internet grousing got to him, he never showed it.

They certainly got to his mother. Quarterback coach Garrick McGee spoke out last month, saying Trina Jones had a hard time attending games for all the negativity directed at her son.

A mother would naturally be sensitive to such things. Just as fans would naturally be upset when their team’s chances of winning are literally being thrown away.

People have a right to boo, especially when they’re paying triple-digit prices to watch players who make seven-figure salaries. The SEC isn’t Pop Warner, but I couldn’t help feeling sympathy for Jones when hundreds of people tried to boo him off the field.

He’s still a college kid, like 60,612 others were at UF during the fall semester. He just happened to be the one who took snaps for the school’s football team.

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Jones kept his grades up. His name never appeared on a police report. His only social media comment came in response to Garrick’s revelations about how tough the season’s been on his mother.

“and that’s sad honestly,” he tweeted.

I don’t know if Jones is a fan of James Lane Allen. But the late novelist wrote, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

What did this season of adversity reveal about Jones?

“I never seen him drop his chin,” Pierce said. “I never seen him give up. He’s going to fight. He’s a fighter.”

And unlike a lot of his peers, Jones is sticking around for one more fight. If the previous 12 battles are any indication, Jones might pass for 300 yards and run UCF silly.

Or, he might toss three interceptions.

Either way, Gator fans should appreciate Jones for what he was.

As a quarterback, he didn’t live up to expectations. As a person, Florida could not have asked for more.

— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley