He had been waiting and dreaming about this his whole life.
The place is here, and the time is now.
All the years of throwing the ball through an old beat up tire rhythmically swinging from a tattered rope from the tree in their front yard; The hours upon hours of practice and conversations with his father and uncle about playing big time college football and his dream to do so, just as they did, had led to this; the biggest moment of his life to date.
After choosing to attend the school he did, knowing that he would sit and watch for a few years while an All-American and Heisman finalist got all the attention and accolades, he knew his time would soon come… and here it was.
His head coach has plenty of experience and a National title to his pedigree and trusts the young man to go out there and do what he does best… win.
Yes ladies and gentlemen… Johnny Brantley had been waiting for this moment his whole young life and the moment had arrived.
With his coach’s blessing and reassurance, John Brantley would take the field and replace one of the great quarterbacks and football players in his school’s history. John Brantley places his helmet on his head and buckles his chin strap as he jogs across the turf at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. His school and his team’s season have come to this. He will take the helm in the National Championship game, just as he imagined growing up. Colt McCoy’s throwing arm is dangling at his side… lifeless, and if the Texas Longhorns have any chance left to beat Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide, and bring home a National championship, it lies on the right arm of the 2006 Gatorade Player of the Year, John Brantley.
Brantley takes the field and lines up in the shotgun behind center…
Now obviously, that would be what Hollywood calls a “dream sequence”. But in reality, I’m not sure just how close we were or weren’t to that being the scenario in the 2009 BCS National Championship game (played in 2010). For those who don’t know, or don’t remember, Brantley originally committed to the Texas Longhorns out of Trinity Catholic High School in Ocala, FL. There was a lot going on and a bit of a log jam at the QB position at his childhood favorite and his family “business”, University of Florida. The Gators were coming off a National title led by graduating Senior Chris Leak, however, they had a freshman quarterback by the name of Tim Tebow, who was absolutely electric that season in spot duty and certain roles that year. The full time job appeared to be Tebow’s for the taking. Late in the game, Johnny changed his mind and committed to the Gators and came to Gainesville anyway. Knowing he would sit behind Tebow and maybe take a redshirt somewhere along the way and then compete for the starting job with another young recruit named Cameron Newton.
Had John Brantley maintained that commitment to Texas, it most likely would have been him, and not Garrett Gilbert that took the field against Alabama when Colt McCoy was injured that night and who knows what is going on in the universe with Texas after that.
Fast forward to real life.
Brantley did get to play against Alabama. Though it was 10 months later, Alabama was defending champs, it was in Tuscaloosa… at night, and the results were, for Johnny and Gator fans, pretty forgettable. Now Johnny stands not on the turf at the Rose Bowl, but instead, at a crossroad.
He considered transferring in the off-season to a FCS school. His confidence has been beaten and battered; and after a season of walking off the field and passing Chas Henry on his way into the game to punt and hearing a cascade of booing “fans”, he had to ask himself… how did I get HERE?
Not here as in Gainesville… but here, as in having to ask the question: Are they were booing ME? Are they booing my OC (yes)? Are they booing my head coach? Why is this happening to me?
This season is John’s last in the Orange and Blue. Some of you just read that and said, “Thank God”, or “Good riddance”, or something to that effect… and I guess that’s fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I won’t sit here and make any excuses for Johnny either. I won’t talk about the substandard play of the O-line last year. He should win anyway.
I won’t bring up the amount of momentum killing/game breaking passes receivers dropped. He should win anyway.
It would be beneath me to discuss the play calling and route running issues that were present last year. He should win anyway.
And since I’m not a football coach, I am not educated enough on the topic to speak about whether rotating 3 quarterbacks in and out of a game is both a poor strategy AND crushes whatever confidence that your “starting” QB has. Win anyway.
If you’re looking forward to the end of the Brantley era and the beginning of the Jeff Driskel era (or Jacoby Brissett), I’ve got a hunch you were also one of the first in line trying to depart the Chris Leak ship and jump on the Tebow cruise liner. I ask a simple favor of you… do some research.
Understand that FAU is a perennial bowl team the past few years. They are not a pushover. UAB is… FAU, not as much. We aren’t taking it to the house on every snap. So (heaven forbid) the first three plays from scrimmage for us are: run off right tackle, gain of 2 – Pass batted down at the line of scrimmage – Sack. Please don’t start booing. The ABSOLUTE WORST thing you could do to this TEAM is to boo them 3 plays into the first season of a new head coach. What you may not understand (and maybe you do, but don’t care) is that when you boo John Brantley… you boo Jeff Demps. You boo Jon Halapio and Andre DeBose. You boo Jelani Jenkins, Shariff Floyd and Ronald Powell. You are booing Coaches Muschamp, Weis, and Quinn. You are booing your home team and the end result of that never helps, it only hurts.
I know… you paid good money for your ticket and you want to give the team a piece of your mind and let them know you’re not happy. Here’s something else you may not know…
They aren’t happy about it either.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. When we’re struggling and you’re not cheering loud enough, what if the players booed you? Not buying enough concessions? BOOO!! How about those of you who get up and leave early to “beat the traffic”? Let’s boo you too.
These men have given everything they have this off season and when things are going great, they are giving their all. When things are going poorly… they are giving their all. The least we can do is give them ours too. Save your energy to building John Brantley and this team up, not tearing them down. If you’re not familiar with our new Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator, they don’t care what fans, media or anyone else thinks about who should be playing and where. These guys know football. I trust them.
What’s important to consider and remember is that John Brantley is “one of us”. He is family. I know we got tired of hearing Urban say, “John’s from a good family”, but it’s the truth and he grew up watching Coach Spurrier coach up Matthews, and Dean. Wuerffel, Johnson, Palmer and Grossman. He chose us over Texas because he wanted to stay home and play in front of the fans that he grew up amongst and saw as the best fans in the country. Many of you have been clear about what you think of John Brantley. But what I wonder now is:
What does John Brantley think of us?
With the season bearing down upon us in a little over a week, I ask you all to get your minds right and get on board this train this season. I can honestly say, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT when it comes to the 2011 Gators. None. The only thing I know is Johnny is QB1.
This is his last year to realize those hopes and dreams. The same hopes and dreams we have for this team. So get comfortable… pull up a chair or seatback and get ready for one heck of a ride. Whether you’re behind him or not, he’s our guy and this is the team we’re taking the field with. You can choose to cheer or you can choose to boo, or protest with silence. That’s OK.
Johnny just might win anyway.