ATLANTA — Although team doctors and trainers had repeatedly told him all week he couldn't play, Percy Harvin was so determined to play in Saturday's SEC Championship Game that he walked onto the field with his cleats on beforehand.
But it wasn't meant to be.
The junior WR/RB, who has a team-high 16 touchdowns with 538 rushing and 595 receiving yards, was not cleared to play because of the high right ankle sprain he sustained against Florida State on Nov. 29.
"I was praying all week, and I just kept believing. But I couldn't go," Harvin said as he stood in sweatpants and his Gator jersey after the game. "I can't even explain how tough it was (not playing).
"I came out and still tried to go, and the trainers and the doctors had to grab me. They said, 'Percy, this is not good for you.' Then my teammates came to me and said, 'Percy, we've got this.' I believed them. And now we're going to be in the national championship."
Harvin said team trainers told him as early as Tuesday he most likely wouldn't be able to play, but he refused to believe it. He did as much rehab as they would allow, still telling himself he would be ready for the game.
"It was me the whole time, just trying to figure out a way, but the trainers just kept looking at me saying there's no way," he said. "But I'll be ready for the national championship game."
Harvin said the thought of not playing was eating him alive. But he got some words of advice from senior TE Cornelius Ingram, who has missed the entire season with an ACL injury: "I told him if I can do it the whole season, you can do it one game."
TITLE GAME BOUND?: The official word won't come until the final BCS standings are announced at 8 tonight, but all expectations are Florida will play in the BCS title game — which has Orange Bowl officials just giddy with the anticipation of a Florida-Oklahoma matchup. (Oklahoma beat Missouri in Saturday's Big 12 title game.)
"Obviously, the voters have all got to vote, and we have the human polls and the computer polls," said S. Daniel Ponce, president and chairman of the Orange Bowl committee which host the title game. "The anticipation is (Oklahoma) should be in. And you've got to think, which is what everybody else has been thinking, that Florida beating the No. 1 team ought to be coming in second or maybe even first."
Ponce said the idea of having two traditional powerhouses, including an instate school, in the title game is great for the entire state and college football.
"It's a great game," Ponce said. "It's college football at its absolute best. I mean you get Oklahoma, a big school from the Southwest.
"You get a big school like Florida, two great coaches who have won national championships, two phenomenal programs. It's just wonderful for college football."
INGRAM TO RETURN?: If the Gators play in the BCS title, Ingram might try to play one last game.
Ingram, who has been cleared by doctors to run and do cuts, said Saturday he's about 85 percent recovered and it's possible he could have a limited role in the game.
Asked who would make the final call, Ingram said the decision "is pretty much mine, the coaches and how my body feels."