Brantley was a Gator Through it All
By Jenna Sweeney
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Although John Brantley did not light up the record books or win a Heisman trophy, he still has a place in Gator football history.
When Tim Tebow left Florida after his senior season, Gator Nation began to predict what his successor would do. The predictions indicated the high hopes that Florida fans had for John Brantley. After seeing Brantley in limited time as Tim Tebow’s back up, many fans pegged Brantley as a future Heisman winner. They called Brantley a better passer than Tebow and predicted amazing passing stats. They were wrong, but let’s face it, what fan base would not be a little over confident after winning two national championships in four years and having an SEC Championship Game appearance the year before?
John Brantley was a very highly sought after quarterback prospect during his senior year of high school. He broke records, became a U.S. Army All-American, and earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year award. To add to the hype, Brantley broke the state record by throwing for 99 career touchdown passes. The previous record holder was Tim Tebow.
Going into his first season as a starter for Florida, the stage was already set for the astronomical expectations of Gator fans. Some of the Brantley extremists expected him to be better than Heisman trophy winner and Gator great Tim Tebow. The season did not go the way that they had foreseen, however. Brantley went 200-329 on the season with 2,061 yards, nine touchdowns, and ten interceptions. In an attempt to produce on offense, head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio implemented a three-quarterback system. The offense became very predictable and was not very successful.
In addition to the offensive woes, the 2010 football season saw many other issues. Reports came out that there was a division between the upperclassmen and the entitled underclassmen, “Bench Brantley” was heard throughout the stadium on game day, and Florida fans felt a sense of impending doom. To top it off, the fans began to boo at home games. By the end of the season, fans expected interceptions instead of touchdowns. John Brantley was being dethroned even faster than he had been proclaimed the next great Gator quarterback by Gator fans. Urban Meyer’s departure did not bother as many Gator fans the second time around. Although it is unfair, the 2010 season left the fans disappointed and unforgiving.
As the offseason wore on, rumors spread that Brantley was considering transferring away from the University of Florida. He decided to stay after talking to the Gators new offensive coordinator, Charlie Weis. At the spring game, fans were cautiously hopeful that Weis had worked his magic on Brantley. After the first few incomplete passes, cries of “Come on, Brantley,” “Not again,” and “Same old Brantley,” could be heard resonating off of the walls of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The loudest cheers came when Brantley overthrew a pass into the back of the endzone where Tim Tebow was standing. The crowd came to life when Tebow picked the ball up and threw it back onto the field. It was obvious that Gator Nation had lost their faith in John Brantley.
In 2011, the season got off to a great start. Brantley appeared to be gaining his confidence back and expectations were beginning to rise. The Swamp was coming alive again. Then Brantley was injured at home against Alabama. After that, the Gators traveled to LSU, where Jacoby Brissett started the game with his first snap at the collegiate level. The Florida football season went downhill from there.
Although Brantley did not light up the record books or win a Heisman trophy, he still has a place in Gator football history. John Brantley is the son and nephew of former Gators. He was a Gator since the day he was born. Brantley was dealt a rough hand at Florida. He was not a perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread offense, he followed the most prolific quarterback in Florida football history, he went through a coaching change, and he was injured during his senior season. Despite all of that, Brantley stuck it out. He waited behind Tebow for his chance to start and he stayed true to the Gators in his darkest hour. Brantley could have left for greener pastures, but he fought hard in the Swamp on Saturdays because he loved the Gators. Tebow was a hard act to follow, but instead of running away, Brantley stood strong and did the best that he could. For those reasons, Brantley should be respected. He may not be the best quarterback in Florida football history, but he gave his heart to the University of Florida.