Our #GreatestGatorEver bracket is set to continue later today with the opening round of the 9 Regional. With voting in the 8 Regional closing soon, let’s familiarize ourselves with said 9 Regional:
(Players are listed in order they appear on the bracket.)
(1) Ryan Lochte (swimming, P/DH- 2003-06). 2x NCAA Swimmer of the Year. 2006 NCAA 200 IM, 400 IM and 200 backstroke champion. 2005 NCAA 200 IM, 200 backstroke and 800m relay champion. 2004 NCAA 400 IM champion. 24X All-American in various events. Holds Florida’s all-time record for 100 yard backstroke (44.6). 4X 4X200m freestyle Olympic gold medalist: 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing), 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro). 2008 Olympic gold medalist in 200m backstroke. 2012 Olympic gold medalist in 400m medley. 3X Olympic medalist in various events. 3X Olympic bronze medalist in various events.
(16) Justin O’Neal (tennis, 1997-00). 1999 and 2000 All-American. 2000 SEC Player of the Year. Florida’s all time singles wins leader with 120. Second all time in Florida history with 208 total wins and fifth all time with 88 doubles wins.
(8) Stacey Poole (basketball, G- 1990-93). Seventh all time at Florida with 1,678 career points. 1992 NIT All-Tournament Team. 1993 All-American honorable mention and consensus first team All-SEC selection.
(9) Gerard Warren (football, DT- 1997-00). 2000 second team All-American. 2001 first round NFL Draft pick (#3 overall). Eleven year NFL career with four teams.
(4) Fred Taylor (football, RB- 1994-97). 1996 national champion. 1997 All-American. Fourth all time in Florida history with 3,075 career rushing yards and fifth all time with 32 rushing touchdowns. 1998 first round NFL Draft pick (#9 overall). Twelve year NFL career with Jaguars and Patriots. 2007 Pro Bowl Selection. 17th all time in NFL history with 11,695 rushing yards.
(13) Michael Frazier (basketball, G- 2013-15). 55th all time in Florida history with 998 career points. 2014 NCAA Tournament All-South Regional Team. School record 11 made three pointers in a single game (vs. South Carolina, 2014).
(5) Lisa Raymond (tennis- 1988-91). 1992 and 1993 individual singles national champion. 1992 team national champion. 1992 and 1993 singles All-American. 6X Grand Slam doubles champion: 2000 Australian Open, 2001 Wimbledon, 2001 US Open, 2005 US Open, 2006 French Open and 2011 US Open. 2000 Wimbledon and 2004 Australian Open singles quarterfinalist. 5X Grand Slam mixed doubles champion. 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist in mixed doubles.
(12) David Little (football, LB- 1977-80). Florida’s all time tackles leader with 475. 1980 consensus first team All-American. Twelve year NFL career with Steelers. 1990 Pro Bowl selection.
(6) Taylor Jacobs (football, WR- 1999-02). Tenth all time in Florida history with 133 career receptions. Seventh all time in Florida history with 1,088 receptions in a single season (2002). Florida’s single game receiving yards leader with 246 (vs. UAB, 2002). Five year NFL career with three teams.
(11) Stephanie Tofft (softball, OF- 2013-14). Fifth all time in Florida history with a .344 career batting average. Seventh all time with a .466 on base percentage. Ninth all time with a .571 career slugging percentage. 2014 national champion.
(3) David Eckstein (baseball, SS- 1995-97). 1996 consensus first team All-American. 1997 All-American. Third all time at Florida with 222 career runs scores. Fifth all time at Florida with 276 career hits. Ten year MLB career with five teams. 2X MLB All-Star selection (2005, 2006). 2X MLB World Series champion: 2002 with Angels and 2006 with Cardinals. 2006 MLB World Series MVP.
(14) Brittany Schutte (softball, Util- 2010-12). 2011 All-American. Fourth all time with 44 career home runs. Sixth all time at Florida with .343 career batting average. Tenth all time with 151 career RBI.
(7) Erving Walker (basketball, G- 2009-12). 3X All-SEC selection, 2010-12. Second all time at Florida with 547 career assists. Fifth all time at Florida with 1,777 career points.
(10) Logan Shore (baseball, P- 2014-16). Second all time at Florida with 30 career pitching wins. Ninth all time at Florida with 248 career strikeouts. Tenth all time at Florida with 2.41 ERA.
(2) Brandon Spikes (football, LB- 2006-09). 2006 and 2008 national champion. 2008 Bronco Nagurski Award finalist. 2008 unanimous first team All-American. 2009 Chuck Bednarik and Dick Butkus Award finalist. 2009 consensus All-American. 3X consensus first team All-SEC selection, 2007-09. 2009 team captain. 2008 and 2009 team captain. Six year NFL career with Patriots and Bills.
(15) DeLisha Milton-Jones (basketball, 1994-97). 1997 All-American. 1997 Honda Sports Award winner. Seventeen year WNBA career, mostly with Sparks and Mystics. 2001 and 2002 WNBA champion. 3X WNBA All-Star: 2000, 2004 and 2007. 2000 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist with Team USA.
(Note: “national champion” labels are only attributed to starters or critical backups/role players on the team.)
The favorite: (2)Brandon Spikes
What Tim Tebow was to the Florida Gators’ offense from 2006-09, Spikes was to the defense. Co-captaining the greatest Florida team of all time (as voted by the fans) and leading by example, Spikes’ flashy style and Mohammed Ali level trash-talk-and-then-back-it-up has made him a fan favorite to this day. Compare that with the little bit of trouble Lochte ran into recently, and I’m banking on fans turning this into a popularity contest and running Spikes through the Regional. And with all Spikes did for the Gators’ flagship program, it wouldn’t be unjustified.
The second favorite: (1)Ryan Lochte
Lochte did a pretty good job pissing off fans and haters alike (if you aren’t aware, google “Lochtegate” and read about it from a source you trust) with, among other things, his antics in Brazil four years ago. But he still has a strong band of supporters and that should show in this tournament, particularly if voters are willing to throw that aside when determining who was the greater Gator. Because the credentials are there: a two-time NCAA swimmer of the year, seven individual NCAA championships, six Olympic gold medals, three more Olympic silver medals and three more Olympic bronze medals. As you can tell from their respective placements, I expect Spikes to take the Regional, but it should be quite a battle in the Regional final.
The sleeper: (3)David Eckstein
Don’t get me wrong: Eckstein had a very good, borderline great Florida career, but he’s seeded this high because of his pro career. Eckstein got massive bonus points in the seeding process for being named the World Series MVP in 2006 (the clutch factor) and winning multiple championships in one of the three major American professional sports (football, basketball and baseball) is something only a microscopic fraction of athletes get to claim. He may not top Spikes in the Regional semifinals, but he’ll likely give him a run for his money.
The dark horse: (4)Fred Taylor
As is the case with Eckstein, Taylor had a very good, borderline great Florida career, but he’s as high as he is because of his pro career, most of which came in Jacksonville. A steady workhorse for some of the Jaguars’ early teams, Taylor churned out productive season after productive season and is getting serious consideration for an NFL Hall of Fame induction. He’ll have to get by a couple of greats in Lisa Raymond and Lochte, but if he can do so, he could set up an epic all-football Regional final against Spikes.
The Cinderella candidate: (5)Lisa Raymond
Raymond will have a tough time against Taylor in the Round of 128 assuming she gets past Little, but if the tennis community comes out strong for her, both Taylor and Lochte are in jeopardy. Raymond is one of Gator tennis’s overall (meaning college and pro combined) tri-GOATs along with Dawn Buth and Nicole Arendt, but Raymond had by far the best professional career of the three and she’s the one that people are most likely to remember.