John Brantley juggling football and personal family issues
In the midst of preparing for the biggest role of his football career, John Brantley IV is caught between focusing on the game he loves while worrying about the father who taught him everything about the game.
His father, former Florida quarterback John Brantley III, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and will undergo surgery on March 10. His grandfather, John Jr. is also recovering from throat cancer.
Brantley, who will begin spring football practice on March 17 as the Gators' starting quarterback, said Friday morning he's trying to take things one day at a time.
“We’ve got a very close relationship, so it’s been tough,'' Brantley said of his father's illness. "I don’t talk about it too much, I try to keep it off my mind as much as I can.
It’s going to be a tough day. A really tough day. But stuff happens. He should be fine. He’s having surgery.''
A former Gatorade National Player of the Year, Brantley, 20, spent the past two seasons as former quarterback Tim Tebow's backup. With the starting job finally his, Brantley knows how important spring practices will be as he and the Gators begin the transition into the 2010 season.
So his family, which includes his uncle - former Florida LB Scot Brantley - is doing all they can to keep him from becoming overloaded with worry.
"They say don’t worry about it, just focus on what’s going on now. We’ll figure out the other stuff when it comes down the road,'' he said. "But it’s always tough to just focus on that and not think about other things. But you know, they keep trying to stress to me it’s going to be fine, it’s going to be fine, which it will be.''
Although he admits it's not something he can fully put out of his mind, Brantley said he's trying as hard as he can to focus on football and spring practice, while not letting things away from football distract him too much. He's working out with his receivers, and focusing on developing more mental toughness, something he believes he'll need to lead the Gators next season. And in many ways, what he's needed these past few weeks.
"It's about learning When stuff gets hard, how are you going to get through, and how are you going to keep pushing yourself.,'' he said? "And just the mental aspect of the game. College football is completely different from high school and I’ve learned that through the last few years. That’s why I was happy to sit back and watch the games for a couple of years. The game has definitely slowed down for me.''
As for his father, Brantley said he's comforted by the fact that his spirit has remained good throughout his illness.
"Absolutely, he’s the same old, same old person,'' Brantley said.