GAINESVILLE — It has been an up and down, emotional year for senior LB Brandon Spikes. He has endured multiple injuries and the public outcry over his unsportsmanlike behavior in the Georgia game that led to a one-game suspension.
But when the former defensive player of the year ran onto Florida Field one last time against Florida State on Saturday, he made sure it was memorable.
When his name was called, Spikes ran out just past the south end zone goal post, kneeled and kissed the ground before he ran out to present flowers to his family.
"When I came out, I knew I just wanted to experience it one last time," Spikes said. "I knew it was going to be my last time coming onto the field. I just wanted to embrace the moment and enjoy it. The fans have been everything to me. They are the one reason I came back for my senior year.
"There is nothing like playing in the Swamp. People always tell me, 'You're never going to get this moment again.' "
Apparently, the rest of his senior classmates, part of the most successful class in SEC history, felt the same.
When the game ended, a group of the seniors, including Spikes, Ryan Stamper, David Nelson and Riley Cooper joined coach Urban Meyer near midfield and posed for a photo before several of the players headed for a victory lap similar to the one QB Tim Tebow took on his own.
"It was Spikes' idea," Stamper said. "I was walking in, and I saw them going. I was like what ya'll doing. We're about to jump on the F. I was like, yeah man I'm about to go with them to remember all the memories in the Swamp, just look around and embrace everything."
DODGING THE RUMORS: It's the biggest week of the regular season for the Gators as they prepare for Alabama and the SEC title game. But defensive coordinator Charlie Strong said he won't be distracted by rumors that he's a candidate for other jobs.
Strong has already been mentioned for the vacant Memphis job, which reports say will go to LSU assistant Daniel Porter, and he's now rumored to be a candidate to replace Steve Kragthrope at Louisville.
Strong insisted none of that will affect his focus for Alabama.
"I know my job is here right now," Strong said. "And it's the only thing I can worry about."
MIXED EMOTIONS: When Florida began its postgame celebration in the north end zone with the band and student section, junior LB A.J. Jones was among them but not quite in the way he had envisioned.
Jones sprained the MCL sprain in his right knee last week and is out for the season. Jones, the former standout at Tampa's Middleton High who started 11 games this season, will be in a cast for 4-6 weeks but said he's not sitting around feeling sorry for himself.
"It's cool," Jones said after the game. "This was a really good atmosphere. And I still feel like I'm a part of this great team."