Florida football: Gators to honor Tom Petty legacy on October 15 against LSU

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida football announced it will honor rock icon and Gainesville native Tom Petty with its inaugural "Tom Petty Day" in its sold-out game against LSU at The Swamp on Oct. 15 (7 p.m., ESPN).

In addition, UF announced Tuesday it will award Petty an honorary doctorate in May of 2023.

In anticipation of Tom Petty Day, the university, in partnership with the Tom Petty Estate, will launch a capsule collection that celebrates the late singer and his connection to the university and his hometown.

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University of Florida Gators cutout of Tom Petty in the stands before the start of a game against South Carolina at Be hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. Oct. 3, 2020.

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The Tom Petty Estate will donate full proceeds from the sales of Tom Petty Day X Florida Collection merchandise to give back to underserved communities in Gainesville. Kids Count and Family Promise will be the recipients this year. Kids Count supports education and early childhood interventions with an emphasis on literacy, while Family Promise works to bring families out of homelessness by providing housing and employment resources.

"It is so incredible for everyone in the family that UF is honoring our dad in his hometown this way," said Adria Petty, Tom Petty's daughter. "He loved the Gators and he loved Gainesville, he always talked jokingly about a doctorate from UF and he would have been totally blown away by all this."

Petty, a Gainesville native, grew up in the area and worked as a groundskeeper at UF in his younger years. He often played at Gainesville area venues before moving to Los Angeles to launch his legendary musical career with The Heartbreakers, many of whom were also local to Gainesville.

As a tribute to the singer and local icon following his death in 2017, the university played Petty's "I Won't Back Down," one of the late artist's biggest hits, in a game against LSU in which 90,000 fans joined in a sing along that rang loudly through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Since then, the song has been played between the third and fourth quarters of home football games and has become a tradition among Florida fans.