A Love Letter to Gator Football

Dear Gator Football,

So, it finally came –  the day I never thought would come: my last home football game as an undergrad. Okay, so the day came about two weeks ago, but still.  I have to admit: it's bittersweet. To think I never really gave football a second thought until I started college. How things have changed, right?

My high school experience was similar to most people's, and football games were usually my social event of choice on Friday nights because there wasn't much to do. I never thought much of football, I mean, my high school team wasn't much, and to be honest, I had never understood the hype behind the NFL. And then I became a Gator.  

I still remember my first football game ever. I had never been to a college game before, even though a bunch of my friends were avid Gator fans. I distinctly remember telling myself that I should go, since I was lucky enough to be a student, living steps away from the stadium. The first time I watched the hype video, with the narrative blaring over my head, I remember feeling like I was truly a part of something. Corny, I know. But trust me, as someone who jokes all the time about being a super cold, disinterested person, it was a big deal. My first Gator football game was also one of the first places (sans Preview), where I did the chomp – and meant it. It was my first semester away from home, independent for the first time, and I'll admit that it was a little rough in the beginning. I'll also admit that football season somehow made it bearable. And it wasn't long before I was waiting eagerly to purchase my next set of season tickets, and truly feeling as though I belonged in orange and blue.

I could state the obvious and mention that Gator football was the thing that made me want to learn more about football in general, that the love I eventually found for my team made me all the more proud to attend the University of Florida, to be a Florida Gator. But it really is more than that. I've come a long way since that first semester. Sure, this might mean that now I know what a snap is, and that I cheer as loudly as everyone else when we get a touchdown. But its the little things too. It's the fact that I may or may not have gotten a little choke up the first time we sang Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" in the Swamp, or that I've lost count of the number of strangers I've hugged and high-fived after a Gator win.  

I may have rolled my eyes at football four years ago. I actually disliked it a little bit and maybe even shrugged it off as something I was too good for. So it's a little ironic that I'm writing this letter now, following my last season of Gator football as an undergraduate. Gator football, I have a lot of things to thank you for. Thank you for giving me thousands of goosebumps, each and every time I watch the beginning of a game. Thank you for giving me a reason to dress up in colors I never would have worn together (orange and blue look lovely together, sixteen-year-old me would have never believed it!) and bond with my friends.

Thank you for making me feel so welcome in the Swamp. And finally, thank you, a million and one times, for making me fall in love with our school.

Photo credit: Cindy Ku