GAINESVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Don’t expect Florida quarterback John Brantley to take a victory lap.
Don’t expect him to scream in the huddle, run up and down the sideline or lower a shoulder into defenders. Don’t expect him to wear bible verses under his eyes, go on mission trips or make any promises. Don’t expect him to be Florida’s short-yardage specialist or the team’s emotional leader.
Don’t expect him to be Tim Tebow.
“I’m just a regular dude from Ocala,” Brantley said.
A laid-back guy with a southern drawl and a haircut straight from the pages of a teen magazines, Brantley will make his first career start Saturday when the fourth-ranked Gators open the season against Miami (Ohio). His goal is to “keep this ball rolling.” He also wants to be himself, which is nothing like Tebow.
That might help him emerge from Tebow’s long and illustrious shadow.
“Waited three years, so I’m very excited for this one moment to come,” Brantley said Monday. “I’m just going to try to go out there and play my own game. … Just be myself. I don’t have to be anyone I’m not. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go out there and play my own game.”
“I hope I get that same text someday from someone because that’s really cool,” Meyer said. “What he’s done here in the last year is exactly what we needed to have happen. He’s growing up. He’s the leader of this team, and he’s Johnny Brantley. That’s good enough for us.”
Brantley, a 6-foot-3 junior, spent three years waiting for this opportunity. He came to Florida a year after Tebow, knowing he might have to sit behind the bulky left-hander. He certainly could have transferred and might even have become a star elsewhere.
Instead, he simply served as Tebow’s long-standing understudy.
“I’ve grown up a lot,” Brantley said. “Taking those three years helped me mature and grow up and learn this game, and I got to learn from one of the best quarterbacks that’ll ever play.”
Not only is Brantley trying to replace one of college football’s all-time greats, he also has Florida lineage.
Brantley grew up in nearby Ocala rooting for the Gators and wanting to follow in the footsteps of his dad and uncle. His father, John Brantley III, threw for 1,334 yards and 11 touchdowns in 1978. His uncle, Scot Brantley, was a two-time All-Southeastern Conference linebacker for the Gators (1978-79).