Yesterday, voting began in our #GreatestGatorEver bracket in the 1 Regional. Today, voting will continue with the 16 Regional, but before the polls open, let’s preview the field and refresh our memories on the players’ accomplishments.
(Players are listed in order they appear on the bracket.)
(1) Preston Tucker (baseball, 1B- 2009-12). Florida baseball all time leader in hits (341), RBI (258) and total bases (596). Second all time in Gator history with 57 home runs. 2011 and 2012 All-American. Three year MLB career with four teams.
(16) Nick Gilliam (golf- 1998-2001). 2001 individual NCAA champion. 2001 team NCAA champion. 2001 All-American.
(8) Marissa King (gymnastics- 2010-13). 2010 AA, V, BB and FX All-American. 2011 V, FX All-American. 2012 V All-American. 2013 AA, BB, FX All-American. 2013 national champion.
(9) Steve Tannen (football, DB- 1967-69). 1969 first team All-American. Tied for seventh in Florida history with eleven interceptions. Five year NFL career with Jets.
(4) Matt Elam (football, S- 2010-2012). 2012 consensus first team All-American. First round NFL Draft pick. Four year NFL career with Ravens.
(13) Melanie Booth (soccer, D- 2003-05). 2005 first team All-American. Member of Team Canada in 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
(5) Shannon Gilroy (lacrosse, M- 2012-15). Florida’s all time points (320) and goals (256) leader. 4X All-American, 2012-15. 2014 Honda Sports Award nominee.
(12) Doug Corbett (baseball, P- 1971-74). Tied for seventh all time at Florida with 25 pitching wins. Eight year MLB career with Twins, Angels and Orioles. MLB All-Star (1981).
(6) Megan Bush (softball, SS- 2008-2011). Florida’s all time single season RBI leader (80). Second all time at Florida with 65 career home runs, third all time with 217 RBI, fourth all time with 462 total bases and fifth all time with .653 slugging percentage. 2011 All-American.
(11) Max Starks (football, OT- 2000-03). 2003 team captain. Ten year NFL career with Steelers and Rams. Super Bowl XL and XLIII champion with Steelers.
(3) Christian Taylor (track, triple jump/long jump- 2009-12). 2010 and 2011 indoor national champion and 2010 and 2011 outdoor national champion. Olympic gold medalist in triple jump in 2012 (London) and 2016 (Rio de Janeiro.) 2011, 2015, 2017 and 2019 world champion in triple jump and 2014 world champion in 4X400m relay.
(14) Sammy Green (football, LB- 1972-75). Consensus All-American in 1975. Five year NFL career with Seahawks and Oilers.
(7) Brandon James (football, RB/KR/PR- 2006-09). 2006 and 2008 national champion. 2007 and 2008 All-American. Florida’s all time leader in kick return yards (2,718), punt return yards (1,371) and punt return touchdowns (4).
(10) Kerron Clement (track, 400 meters/400 meter hurdles- 2004-05). 2004 and 2005 400m hurdles NCAA champion. Olympic gold medalist in 4X400m relay and silver medalist in 400m hurdles in 2008 (Beijing); gold medalist in 400m hurdles in 2016 (Rio de Janeiro). 2007 and 2009 world champion in 400m hurdles and 4X400m relay.
(2) Dara Torres (swimming- 1986-89). 1988 SEC athlete of the year. 7X All-American in all four years of eligibility. 1984 (Los Angeles), 1992 (Barcelona) and 2000 (Sydney) Olympic gold medalist (Team USA) in 4X100m freestyle; 2000 4X100m medley gold medalist. 4X Olympic silver medalist and 4X bronze medalist.
(15) Eddy Piñeiro (football, K- 2016-17). Fifth all time at Florida with 38 made field goals and second all time with an 88.4% made field goal percentage. Two (+) year NFL career with Raiders and Bears.
(Note: “national champion” labels are only attributed to starters or critical backups/role players on the team.)
The favorite: (2)Dara Torres
If voters know their history, Torres has to be the favorite to advance out of this Regional. One of the greatest swimmers of all time both in college and professionally, she earned 28 different All-American honors (the most possible for an NCAA swimmer) at Florida before collecting twelve Olympic medals, four of each color. She’s undoubtedly one of the most accomplished female athletes in UF history and as strong a resume as others in her half of the bracket may boast, I’d be utterly shocked if someone took her out before the Regional final.
The second favorite: (1)Preston Tucker
Tucker is Florida baseball’s GOAT in several different statistical categories, which holds serious weight since the Gator baseball program has produced several legendary players, and he also stepped up and guided Florida to the national championship series in 2011. That was why he got the final #1 seed over Torres- a decision I wrestled with at length. But no matter. Who’s #1 and who’s #2 in the Regional is irrelevant, as if their seeds hold they’ll do battle in what could be an epic Regional final.
The sleeper: (4)Matt Elam
Elam is an interesting case study in just how much stock one year holds. Without his 2012 season, he’s probably not even in the field of 256 at all; because of it, he zoomed all the way up to the #4 line. From his incredible acrobatic strip of O’Dell Beckham to timely interceptions against rivals Georgia, FSU and Tennessee, Elam was everywhere that year, which earned him first team All-American honors from five different publications. Don’t be surprised if he gives Tucker a war in the Round of 64.
The dark horse: (7)Brandon James
It’s rare for anybody to return kicks and punts for four straight years, let alone be named as an All-American in two of those years, but James did it. Simply put, James is the best return man in Florida history and there isn’t really a close second other than maybe Jacquez Green. It’s hard to fathom him getting by Torres in the second round even with the football bias, but if he does, watch out. He may even take the whole Regional.
The Cinderella candidate: (10)Kerron Clement
Every bit as accomplished as his fellow track star Christian Taylor, Clement took a beating in the seeding process because he only ran for Florida for two years while Taylor ran for four. But the credentials are there for him to provide some major resistance to James in round one and possibly even Torres in round two.