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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Meyer: Nail-biters help
Florida's road to the BCS title game wasn't as smooth as Ohio State's, but coach Urban Meyer said Sunday that his team has earned his admiration.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published January 8, 2007
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Florida's road to the BCS title game wasn't as smooth as Ohio State's, but coach Urban Meyer said Sunday that his team has earned his admiration.
Five of the Gators' 12 wins were by seven points or fewer, but Meyer believes it taught them how to handle adversity.
"The 17-16s and hanging on at the end of the game, that causes gray hairs and ulcers. But it also strengthens and toughens your outfit," Meyer said. "You learn a lot about people. You learn a lot about your football team when you get hit right in the mouth and you respond to that. You don't hear me say this very often: I admire our guys.
"They have earned that admiration because they got hit right in the sock a few times and came through. That was a tough schedule."
TORN LOYALTIES: The matchup is wreaking havoc with the Meyer household. The Meyers are Ohio natives, and Meyer's wife, Shelley, said family and close friends are torn.
"We've got a lot of people confused about this game because they are Buckeye fans and Gator fans," Shelley said. "They want us to win, but the love of the Buckeyes runs very deep. I mean, we love the Buckeyes. One of my good-luck charms is a Buckeye. I have two Florida coins and a Buckeye that I carry as good-luck charms. How weird is that? I've had them all season."
Shelley said she never imagined this matchup, but now she's lobbying family to pull for the Gators.
"Most of them know it's really important for us to win," she said. "But it's hard. I don't blame them, but I said you can't come to a game on a ticket of mine if you're not wearing orange and blue."
MASTER OF TIME: There has been much speculation about the layoff between the Dec. 2 SEC title game and tonight, but it might work in the Gators' favor.
Meyer is 20-2 when he has more than one week to prepare 2-0 this season. He is 3-0 in bowl games.
The players said they expect Meyer to throw everything at Ohio State.
"Give him that much time, he's dangerous," junior receiver Andre Caldwell said. "I don't know what goes through his head up there, but he gets it done. I think he's the mastermind. The more time you give him, the better game plan he comes up with."