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For their own good
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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It's always UF parents day
The players' families form a bond - and boisterous cheering section.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published March 30, 2007
[Times photo: Brian Cassella]
Joakim Noah's father, Yannick Noah, and Al Horford's father, Tito Horford, cheer on the Gators after during the victory over Oregon.
At 6 feet 9 and 7 feet 1, respectively, Sidney Green and Tito Horford aren't your average male cheerleaders by any stretch of the imagination.
But they can give the cheerleaders on college scholarship a run for their money.
Through the course of the season, Green, father of junior forward Taurean, and Horford, junior center Al's dad, have become the unofficial head cheerleaders in the Florida family section.
They have turned it up during the NCAA Tournament, often seen standing, pumping their fists and raising their hands to direct the rest of the fans to stand and cheer during critical junctures. Yannick Noah, who won the 1983 French Open two years before son Joakim was born, is more prone to follow the lead of the former basketball players.
"People tell me and Al that our dads start the 'defense' chants and all that stuff," Taurean Green said. "They get the crowd going."
Fans in New Orleans and St. Louis turned on the defending national champions during first- and second-round games in favor of the underdogs. That's when Sidney and Tito can really get things going.
"Oh, yeah, we have to get the crowd into it," said Tito Horford, who left Miami after his sophomore season to enter the NBA when Al was 2. "The guys are putting so much into it and playing so hard. We have to get everybody excited and behind them."
Green, affectionately known as "Big Sid" to the players, isn't ashamed to show his emotions. Taurean often jokes that he has to "find a way to stop Big Sid from crying."
Sidney said that after so many college coaches questioned his son's ability, watching him succeed is often an emotional experience.
But it's not just the dads. Players' moms and coaches' wives are in the mix.
"My mom comes from a basketball family, so she really gets into it. My dad was gone a lot when I was younger, and it was my mom who would take me to AAU games and stuff," said Green, who was born in 1985 and whose father played until 1993. "She loves the game."
The families come from all over. Noah's father lives in Paris. Green's family moved from Fort Lauderdale to Orlando to be closer to Gainesville and attend all the home games. Horford comes from Michigan. Junior forward Corey Brewer's father is ill and homebound, but his mother, Glenda, who lives in Tennessee, and his brother, Jason, have been to some regular-season games and have made all the tournament games. Senior starting guard Lee Humphrey's parents, Tennessee natives, are in the cheering section, along with the families of other players.
When Florida won its third straight SEC tournament championship, it was the family section where the players headed first after collecting their trophy and commemorative hats and T-shirts.
After the Gators captured the Midwest Region, the 7-foot Noah climbed into the stands in search of mother Cecilia Rodhe.
"I told her that I loved her," he said. "You know, I mean it's a special feeling to see all the families in the crowd. When you know they are so proud, there's nothing better than that. You look at Big Sid and he's crying. Big Sid is starting all the chants and stuff. And your mom's always there for you, you're playing for your mommie, you know. ... That's her 6-11 baby boy who's running up in the stands and everybody hates."
The families and the famous faces have become a familiar fixture at Florida games, particularly in the NCAA Tournament. But over the course of three seasons, they have built a quiet, private bond based on love of the game and their children.
"I think their relationship is somewhat based on how we relate to each other, me, Al, Corey and Jo," Green said. "They're close. They love watching the games. They're definitely die-hard Gators fans. They're always into the games. They are our No. 1 supporters."
Added Al Horford: "I think they are really close, seeing each other all the time and being able to spend time together. I feel like we've built relationships for the future."