1. Archive


It took Brandon James all of 13 seconds to make good on his promise.

Before the season, the Florida senior vowed to score on a kickoff return. He did just that Saturday on his first chance of the 2009 season, going 85 yards untouched, dashing up the middle then cutting to the right sideline.

It had been 10 years and 123 games since the Gators returned a kickoff for a touchdown - Bo Carroll did it at LSU on Oct. 9, 1999.

Teammates mobbed James in front of the band, and coach Urban Meyer gave him a hug when he got back to the sideline.

"I love Brandon. I'm so proud of that guy," Meyer said. "He works awful hard at his job, and he inspires the guys blocking for him."

The historic return might have been even more surprising based on his performance earlier in the game. James had four punt returns for a combined 13 yards, including one he bobbled and another where he caught the ball along the sideline and immediately stepped out of bounds. He also dropped a pass in the end zone.

But then he found the seam into the record books.

The senior joined Harvin Clark (1969-71) as the only Florida players to have a punt return and kickoff return for a touchdown.

"It feels really good getting the monkey off my back," James said. "It means a lot to me because I didn't want to leave here without having one."

Saturday night had been a long time coming for James, who has taken a kickoff to the end zone before, but there was always a yellow penalty flag there to nullify the return. The most recent close call came during last year's Arkansas game, when James took one 89 yards for a score, but a holding call brought it back.

This time there were no flags when he reached the end zone.

"I didn't look for any (flags). I just celebrated with my teammates," James said. "When I got to the sideline, Coach Meyer said, 'Finally, no flags.'"

With his first season goal out of the way, James had to pick a new one after Saturday's game - one more punt return for a touchdown will break a tie with Jacquez Green (1995-97) for the school record, currently four.

He isn't, however, ready to call himself the best Florida return man ever.

"I'll let the fans and coaches and teammates be the judge of that," James said. "I just try to make a big play every time I step out on the field."