Round one of the #GreatestGatorEver tournament is drawing to a close. Today, we take a look at the third-to-last of the sixteen Regional brackets to be played: the 10 Regional.
(Players are listed in order they appear on the bracket.)
(1) Chris Leak (football, QB- 2003-06). One of three four year primary starting QB’s in Florida football history. 2006 national champion. 2007 BCS Championship Game Offensive MVP. 2005 and 2006 team captain. Florida’s all time passing yards leader with 11,213. Second in Florida history with 88 touchdown passes, and tied for second with 35 wins as quarterback.
(16) Josh Tobias (baseball, INF- 2012-15). 2012 SEC All-Freshman team. 2015 consensus All-American.
(8) Chris Richard (basketball, F). 2006 and 2007 NCAA champion; led both championships teams with .698% and .690% FG%, respectively. 2007 SEC Sixth Man of the Year. Two year NBA career.
(9) Kelsey Bruder (softball, OF- 2008-11). 2009 and 2011 All-American. 2011 SEC Player of the Year. 2011 Honda Sports Award winner. 2011 WCWS All-Tournament team. Second in Florida history with .700% slugging percentage; fourth with 52 home runs and .357 batting average; seventh with 185 runs scored.
(4) Caeleb Dressel (swimming- 2015-18). 9X individual NCAA champion: 2015 50 yard freestyle, 2016 50 and 100 yard freestyle, 2017 and 2018 50 and 100 yard free and 100 yard fly. 28X All-American (most possible for an NCAA swimmer). 2016 (Rio) Olympic 4X100m freestyle and 4X100m medley gold medalist. 19X World Championships gold medalist.
(13) Ricky Nattiel (football, WR- 1983-86). Clutch factor: hauled in 96 yard touchdown pass against Georgia in 1984 in Florida’s 27-0 win. 1986 All-American. 1986 team captain. First round NFL Draft pick (#27, Broncos). Six year NFL career with Broncos.
(5) Jacquez Green (football, WR- 1995-97). Clutch factor: caught 63 yard pass from Doug Johnson late in the fourth quarter to help Florida upset #1 FSU in 1997. 1996 national champion. 1997 consensus All-American. Seventh in Florida history with 23 career receiving touchdowns; eighth with 2,181 receiving yards. Five year NFL career.
(12) Eugene McDowell (basketball, C- 1982-85). 1985 team captain. Led SEC with .646 FG% in 1983. 3X All-SEC: 1983, 1984, 1985. Florida’s all time career double-doubles leader with 43. Second in Florida history with 1,063 career rebounds; eighth with 150 blocked shots; 12th with 1,565 career points.
(6) Dennis Mitchell (track- 1986-89). 3X individual NCAA champion: 1988 (indoor) 200y sprint and 4X400y relay and 1989 (outdoor) 200y sprint. 1992 (Barcelona) 4X100m relay Olympic gold medalist and 100m sprint bronze medalist; 1996 (Atlanta) 4X100m relay silver medalist. 1991 and 1993 World Championships 4X100m relay.
(11) Jill Craybas (tennis- 1993-96). 1996 national champion (team). NCAA individual singles champion. 1995 and 1996 singles All-American. 1995 SEC Player of the Year. 2002 Japan Open singles champion. Reached second round of all four major Grand Slam tournaments (singles); reached Round of 16 of Wimbledon singles main draw in 2005.
(3) Joe Haden (football, CB- 2007-09). Clutch factor: broke up 4th down pass on Oklahoma’s last ditch drive in 2009 BCS Championship Game. First true freshman to start at cornerback in school history (2007). 2008 national champion. 2009 unanimous first team All-American. 2009 Sporting News National Defensive Player of the Year. First round NFL Draft pick (#7 overall, Browns). Ten year NFL career and counting with Browns and Steelers. 3X Pro Bowl: 2013, 2014, 2019. 27 career interceptions.
(14) Chelsey Sakizzie (softball, P- 1997-98). 1997 SEC Player of the Year. 1998 All-American. Second in Florida history with 1.14 career ERA; fifth with .193 opponent batting average; seventh with 537 strikeouts; tied for ninth with 60 pitching wins.
(7) Michelle Moultrie (softball, OF- 2009-12). 2011 and 2012 All-American. 2011 WCWS All-Tournament team and Most Outstanding Player. 2012 SEC Player of the Year. Third in Florida history with .385 career batting average; fourth with 274 hits; fifth with 204 runs scored; ninth with .457 on base percentage. 10 year international pro softball career with Team USA (presumptive 2021 Olympian). 2012 and 2014 WBSC silver medalist; 2016 and 2018 WBSC gold medalist.
(10) Shane Matthews (football, QB- 1989-92). Third in Florida history with 9,287 passing yards; fifth with 74 career passing touchdowns. 1990 and 1991 SEC Player of the Year. 1992 All-American. Thirteen year NFL career.
(2) Corey Brewer (basketball, F- 2005-07). 2006 and 2007 national champion; 2006 and 2007 Final Four All-Tournament team. 2007 Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Leads Florida with 198 career NCAA Tournament points. 34th in Florida history with 1,225 career points. 2006 SEC Defensive Player of the Year. 2007 All-America honorable mention. First round NBA Draft pick (#7 overall, Timberwolves). Twelve year NBA career. 2011 NBA Champion with Mavericks.
(15) Phil Trautwein (football, OT- 2004-06, 2008). 2006 and 2008 national champion. 2008 first team All-SEC. Three year NFL career.
The favorite: (2)Corey Brewer
Leak is the higher seed because as the quarterback, he had more to do with his team’s glory than Brewer did as one piece of an incredible starting five. But Brewer was 20% of one of the greatest two year runs college basketball has ever seen, and took over in crunch time to earn 2007 Final Four MOP honors. It’s true, Brewer was one of five dynamic pieces as opposed to the clear team conductor the way the quarterback was, but each of those pieces, Brewer included, were so brilliant that they etched themselves a name in the first class of college basketball history. So I have to think Brewer’s got a slight edge in this potential Regional final.
The second favorite: (1)Chris Leak
Leak quarterbacked Florida to one of its three national championships, earning Offensive MVP honors in that title game to cap a storybook career. That by itself makes him an opponent that few would want to have to face. But he’s also Florida’s all time passing king, which when you factor in the fact that Florida has had three Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks and probably should’ve had a fourth (Rex Grossman) is even more impressive of a statement than it appears at face value. How voters will decide to go in this one is yet to be seen, but either way, pencil in Leak vs. Brewer in a barnburner of a Regional final.
The sleeper: (3)Joe Haden
In a sentence, here’s Haden’s resume: he might be the best defensive back that a school that calls itself DBU has ever seen. Going to war against the likes of AJ Green, Alshon Jeffrey, Brandon LaFell and Julio Jones on a weekly basis- and shutting them down- prepared him for a stellar NFL career, which has already resulted in a hat trick of Pro Bowl appearances at age 31. And presumably, he’s still got several more NFL chapters left to be written. He’ll have trouble with Brewer in the Round of 64, but if he can spring the upset there and make it to the Regional final, Haden vs. Leak will be fascinating to watch.
The dark horse: (4)Caeleb Dressel
If only his teammates had helped him out a little more and won a team national championship- the same criteria I used for every other athlete- Dressel would have been a top sixteen Regional seed. So admittedly, he got punished in the seeding process for things that aren’t his fault. But that also makes him dangerous as a Regional #4 seed. Few other Gator athletes are as internationally recognizable as Dressel, and if he can get past Green in the second round, he’ll give Leak a fight in the Regional semifinals.
The Cinderella candidate: (5)Jacquez Green
Leak has to be the favorite, but the winner of the 4-5 second round matchup between Dressel and Green is going to be a problem for him in the Regional semifinals. Green, though, has the steeper incline to brave, with one of Florida basketball’s original legends in Eugene McDowell up first. And Dressel has to be considered the favorite in that prospective 4-5 matchup. But if Green is able to slip by him, he might just keep going.