Fletcher coach, former UF running back Ciatrick Fason heads Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame class
Ciatrick Fason has an enduring memory of Florida-Georgia games -- one that sticks out for almost anyone who has played in that game in Jacksonville.
"Just walking into that stadium and seeing a sea of orange and blue on one side, a sea of red on the other side, split right down the middle, it was probably one of the biggest moments of my career," said the former University of Florida running back who is now the head coach at Fletcher, his high school alma mater.
He'll have another memory on Oct. 29 at the TIAA Bank Field East Club when he will join former Gator teammate Keiwan Ratliff and former Georgia players Thomas Davis and Jon Stinchcomb in their inductions to the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame.
After missing last year because of the pandemic, the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame Luncheon will be held for the 25th time as part of Florida-Georgia week and the Bold City Bash.
“The Florida-Georgia game is one of Jacksonville’s longest-running traditions and one of the most storied rivalries in college football,” said Mayor Lenny Curry in a statement. “Every year, the Hall of Fame Luncheon allows us the opportunity to recognize some of the most talented student-athletes and coaches and highlight the tremendous impact and strong connection this game has to our city.”
Fason's Gator teams were 2-1 when he was in uniform, and he played in two games against the Bulldogs, in 2003 and 2004.
As a junior, Fason shredded the UGA defense for 139 yards on 17 carries (8.2 yards per attempt) and caught five passes for 35 more yards in a 31-24 loss to the 'Dogs. UF rallied from a 24-7 deficit and Fason's 38-yard run set up a TD pass from Chris Leak to Billy Latsko that cut the lead to 24-21.
Fason, who played two NFL seasons after being drafted in the fourth round by Minnesota, said the first Florida-Georgia game he attended was in 1992 when he watched Errict Rhett help Florida win 26-24.
"It means so much, especially going back to being a kid, growing up here," he said. "Being able to play in that game was an honor, and now being appreciated for what I accomplished feels like something even greater."
Ratliff, an Ohio native, played for Florida from 2000-2003 and was the SEC defensive player of the year in 2003, with nine interceptions. He played against Georgia four times, with the Gators winning all four, and stood out in the 2002 and 2003 games.
Ratliff had four tackles, one for a loss, and returned five punts for 53 yards in UF's 20-13 victory in 2002. The following season, he had four tackles, intercepted a pass, broke up another and forced a fumble in the Gators' 16-13 victory.
He was a second-round draft pick by Cincinnati and played parts of 10 NFL seasons.
Davis played linebacker and safety for the Bulldogs from 2002-2004, and was a two-time first-team All-SEC player. He had eight tackles and five assists in three games against UF, and had five tackles in a 31-24 victory in 2004. He was a first-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers and was named the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2014, the highlight of a 16-year pro career.
Stinchcomb played offensive tackle from 1999-2002 for Georgia and helped the 'Dogs to the SEC title in 2002. He was a first-team All-American that year, and a two-time Academic All-American. He was drafted by New Orleans and was a member of their Super Bowl-winning team in 2010.
Hall of Fame Luncheon tickets are on sale through the Jacksonville Sports & Entertainment Office. Visit 2021flgahalloffame.eventbrite.com.
The Times-Union's Clayton Freeman contributed to this report