You know that whole “turn to the left and to the right of you” thing some colleges and universities do during freshman orientation?
Well, it can take on an entirely different meaning if you’re a student-athlete at a school with a powerhouse program. The person next to you could be a future Olympian, Hall of Famer, or a generational athlete. Check these campuses out.
At a top-tier sports school the potential amount of star power walking around campus during one calendar year is unlimited. And when you add in the personalities of some of these athletes — and coaches — it forces you to look back at certain schools and wonder: “How in the hell was all that talent there at the same time?”
Exhibit A: The campus of the University of Florida in 2007.
“Titletown is what they called it,” former Gators hoops star Chris Richard told Deadspin.
For the Gen Z kids in the room, Gainesville was buck wild back in ’07 because the football team won a national championship, while the men’s basketball team was capping off a back-to-back national title run of its own.
“The year that we both won, they had students climbing traffic lights,” Richard explained.
And while the gambit of talent gallivanting through the streets of Gainesville that year is absurd, it’s the personalities that truly set the school apart.
Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, Cam Newton, Riley Cooper, Aaron Hernandez, Louis Murphy, Percy Harvin, and the Pouncey Twins were all on the football team. And those are just the controversial ones.
Meyer is a liar who protects serial domestic abusers. Tebow is… Tebow. Newton transferred after he got arrested for stealing a laptop. Cooper uses slurs against black people. Hernandez was a serial killer. Murphy and Harvin have had multiple off-the-field issues. The Pouncey Twins were never considered angels.
“That locker room had so much talent and so many different personalities,” former Gator back Chris Rainey told Deadspin. 2007 served as Rainey’s freshman year, as he was a member of the football and track team. “It was so much fun, and we all became a family and were on the same page.
“But it is weird that when people talk about the Florida Gators and all the players that got in trouble, it does make you think, ‘Damn, we had that many people go to jail or get in trouble?’ But, that’s why I say it was a savage team.”
That squad also featured future NFL draft picks like Brandon Spikes, Carlos Dunlap, and Joe Haden, while guys like Dan Mullen and Charlie Strong were serving as assistant coaches.
Over at the O’Connell Center, Billy Donovan was coaching eight future NBA players: Taurean Green, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, Marreese Speights, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, and Richard.
“We were all kids, and I don’t think any of us imagined so many people would blow up the way they did,” said Richard. “The best part about it is that we were all cool and close on campus. We went to track parties, swim team parties, and we hung out with the football team. It was one big family.”
Habitual liar Ryan Lochte was on that swim team. Billy Horschel was playing golf. Matt LaPorta was playing baseball before he headed to the major leagues, and apparently, Internet sensation/famous gambler Dan Bilzerian even took a few classes that year. All while ESPN’s Laura Rutledge was a freshman. It’s a wonder how anybody got any school work done in 2007.
Fraternization amongst the athletes was common, and according to Richard, he once came in second place to Newton in a video game tournament that a fraternity was hosting at their house.
“It was either NBA2K or FIFA, but I know Cam got me,” he said.
The involvement with players from other sports or the rest of the student body didn’t end there, as Richards also recalls taking part in a huge snowball fight when one fraternity had shaved ice brought in to decorate their lawn in “snow.”
According to Rainey, that camaraderie was based on an unspoken understanding that takes place when a campus is filled with athletes, and some students, all coming in with national recognition.
“We all went to the same clubs and ate together,” he explained. “And that time was the last time all the athletes did that. It’s just not the same anymore.”
With Gainesville’s population of approximately 133,000, you can understand how the college town turned into the epicenter for fun, especially given that the football and basketball teams combined to win three national championships in less than a calendar year.
“We were the celebrities, or the pro team, if you will, in the city,” said Richard. “So the more we won, the more people came out to see us. And I don’t know the statute of limitations on certain things, but there was a lot of love shown!”
Thirteen years later, it’s fun to think about what actually took place on that campus, at a time when Facebook was only a few years old, Twitter was in its infancy, and Instagram didn’t exist.
Since sports documentaries seem to be the latest wave, we’re nominating the ‘07 Gators as a very worthy subject. Working Title: “The Swamp.”
“They need to do one on us, but people are scared,” said Rainey. “After the Aaron Hernandez documentary, no way.”