Scot Brantley is one of the most familiar names in Tampa Bay are sports history. He was born in South Carolina but moved to Florida and became a high school football legend at Ocala Forest. He then played at Florida, where he earned All-SEC honors at linebacker and was a third-round draft pick of the Bucs in 1980. He spent eight seasons with the Bucs, and his sports ties grew stronger after his playing days. Brantley spent 10 seasons as a color analyst for Bucs radio and held the same job on Gators broadcasts. In addition, he became one of the most popular local sports radio talk-show hosts.
A year ago, Brantley's world changed drastically. He had a series of ministrokes, caused when a blood clot temporarily clogs an artery and part of the brain doesn't get the blood it needs. He learned that he has lived his life with a hole in his heart. His condition is called patent foramen ovale. The Mayo Clinic's Web site says at least one of four people has it and most don't know because it usually doesn't have symptoms. Brantley, 51, is on the mend, spending most of his time at his home in Tampa. He still works on the Gators radio network and speaks at Gators club functions. Thursday, St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones spoke with Brantley by telephone.
How are you feeling?
Overall, pretty good. Some days are better than others. I've lost about 75-90 percent of my eyesight in my left eye. It sort of comes and goes. But I still keep myself in pretty good shape, and I'm just moving along, you know?
You never had any heart issues when you played?
None. That's what's so strange. I played all those years, had all those doctors with the Gators and Bucs, but unless you're tested for something like a hole in the heart, there's no way you're going to find something like that. But I never had any heart issues when I played. But now, I think there are a lot of factors. I think it's all related — heart, head and so forth.
You're talking about concussions?
Yeah. When you deal with these heart doctors, these cardiologists, those guys can take the heart apart and put it back together again and put new valves in there and do just about anything. But no one knows a whole lot about the brain and its impacts on people long term.
How many concussions do you figure you suffered while playing?
Oh man, I have no idea. Going back to when I was in junior high and high school and all the way through college and the pros, if I didn't get dinged, I felt like I didn't play hard. There's no telling how many I had. I actually think it's great what (former Bucs president) Gay Culverhouse is doing with Congress (in testimony this week), getting to the bottom of these long-term effects of concussions. There are a lot of guys out there who need help, guys who are hurting who were much better players than I was and they're too prideful or embarrassed to get help.
When you started having your ministrokes, were you scared?
Scared the heck out of me. They came to the house and wanted me to get in the ambulance, and I said, "I ain't getting in no damn ambulance.'' Then it got worse, and I got into that ambulance. (Laughs) You take your health for granted, you know?
And you always kept yourself in good shape, even after you retired, right?
Oh, yeah. When I finished playing, I asked a doctor. "What should be my ideal weight after playing?" And he said that it was probably impossible but you should try to weigh what you weighed in your senior year of high school. Well, I looked it up, and I weighed 220. And since then, I've weighed between 218 and 225.
Let's talk about your teams. What's the problem with the Bucs?
I wish I knew. This is bad. You go out of the country, you get spanked, then you have a bye week, and when they do come back, they're going to throwback uniforms. My thought is, "Oh, no!'' Might not be good timing, you know? And now they're going to throw a kid quarterback in there.
What do you think of Josh Freeman?
Like I said, might not be good timing for him to go play. But who knows. Maybe he'll be the next Doug Williams. Or maybe he'll be the next Jack Thompson. Actually, he kind of looks like Jack Thompson, doesn't he? (Laughs)
Is Raheem Morris the right guy for the job?
I think the world of him. I will always love Raheem as a person and as a coach. Is he the perfect guy for the job? I don't think anybody would agree with that at the moment. But I'm not sure there is a right person for this job right now. A lot of things need to transpire to fix this team, and it starts with this question: Why are you $35 million under the salary cap?
It seems like something is missing with the Gators. What are your thoughts on them?
Well, this adversity right now is just what the doctor ordered. It's just what it needs to keep their heads out of the clouds. It's not like last season when they got the bombshell against Ole Miss. This year they are having to work, and not everything is perfect, and they're still winning. They're facing a Georgia team (Saturday) that is not very good without (quarterback Matt) Stafford and (running back Knowshon) Moreno and half their defense gone. Right now Florida needs to get its stride back. They haven't found their stride yet, and maybe they can find it against Georgia.
How has Tim Tebow looked to you?
Tebow is not Tebow. I'm not sure why. I don't know if he is worried about the concussion or if he has any aftereffects from that, which I can understand. But this team will go only as far as Tebow takes them.
Can Tebow play in the NFL?
Yes. Will it be quarterback? I don't know. But if I was an owner, I'd want that guy on my football team. Maybe he'll become like (Colts tight end) Dallas Clark, a guy who just makes plays out there. … He can be a great athlete for somebody. Then again, he could end up running Tim Tebow Ministries all over the world and do a heck of a lot more than he could ever do playing in the NFL.