GAINESVILLE — Standing in the tunnel minutes before running onto Florida Field for the last time, safety Ahmad Black and center Mike Pouncey could not control themselves.
Black and Pouncey, two of 23 Gator seniors playing their final home game Saturday, first played together at Lakeland High, where they won a state championship as seniors in 2006. Two years later, Black and Pouncey were starters on Florida's national championship team.
For such a successful duo, Saturday's senior day seemed unfitting. Black and Pouncey could play for pride only, their pursuit of another ring squashed by South Carolina in last week's de facto SEC East title game.
Still, waiting for their names to be announced for the last time at the Swamp, Black and Pouncey cried.
"It was an emotional day," Pouncey said after the 48-10 win against Appalachian State. "I gave my life to this program. It paid off (Saturday). … More than any other win, this one meant the most to me."
Black was the second-to-last player announced. Just seconds after coming out, he knelt down face-first in the end zone. He then embraced his mother, who was equally emotional.
"My dad is trying to get her to stop," Black said, "but she still might be crying. I don't know."
After Black's entrance, Pouncey hid his face in his helmet, trying to hide his tears. He embraced coach Urban Meyer longer than any other player before being surrounded by four teammates.
Pouncey, who stayed in Gainesville for his senior year even though his twin, Maurkice, turned pro, was taken out of the game in the third quarter, when he received a standing ovation from the crowd and hugs from Meyer and offensive line coach Steve Addazio.
"To say there won't be a Pouncey on this team next year, that's hard," Meyer said.
Black and Pouncey were two of 12 senior starters against Appalachian State.
The win provided an appropriate send-off for the group, which won its 23rd career game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and was pivotal during the 2008 championship run.
And for Black, the game provided a chance to reflect on much that has changed in the past four years.
"As a freshman, I got told, 'Go get Gatorades' for my position group," said Black, who recovered a fumble in the second quarter and leads the team this season with 96 tackles. "Trying to get a rep in practice was like pulling teeth.
"To go from where I was to where I'm at now is just a tremendous (blessing)."