College football is so much more than a sport. For those of us who follow it religiously, it's a significant part of our identities. It's our history and our future plans. It's our favorite tradition and our new away game road trip. And here in the South, it's a focal point of our culture.
I didn't grow up a football fan. I chose to go to the University of Florida because it was the best school that I could go to for free. I was told I should try to get season tickets for football, so I did. I didn't really see what all the fuss was about, but I figured if anything, it would help me make new friends. The second those boys ran on the field at the beginning of that first game my freshman year, something inside me ignited. The thrill was contagious, and I couldn't help falling head-first.
I attended UF during a particularly exciting era in Gator history. I saw the firing of Ron Zook and witnessed the hope we placed in Urban Meyer. I saw an incoming freshman named Tim Tebow play at the Orange and Blue spring scrimmage game and knew he was going to be someone worth watching. I had season tickets for four years, I traveled to a couple of games outside of The Swamp, and of course, I'll never forget the night my friends and I rallied at a local bar to watch our boys win a national championship in Arizona.
Obviously, life as a Gator hasn't been so sweet as of late. But I grew up a Red Sox fan, so I know that shining victories only appear so bright after spending some time in the dark. And even if this isn't the year we turn it back around, college football is about more. It's about the years I spent in that stadium.
It's about graduating from a place that meant more to me than the town I grew up in.
It's about a place where I created new lifelong friendships, and gained a deeper bond with old friends who have become more like family.
It's about connecting with fellow alumnae in a far-away place that would someday become home...even if it was in enemy territory.
It's about celebrating the future of Gator Nation, the accomplishments of our young alumni, and the goals we have yet to achieve.
It's about the town where I met some guy at a mutual friend's party...
...with no way of knowing that I'd marry him someday.
Are you as excited for football season as I am? What traditions are your favorite? What memories do you tie to the game?