Marshall soaks in Ring moment

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer
Published September 30, 2007

GAINESVILLE - Wilber Marshall wept.

The former Florida All-America linebacker, known for his ferocious hits, thought he was fully prepared for what he would feel when he was inducted into the prestigious Florida Ring of Honor on Saturday afternoon.

Turns out, he wasn't.

"I thought I could handle it, but it was overwhelming," Marshall said after the pregame ceremony.

Marshall, who played from 1980-83, was a consensus first-team All-American in 1982 and 1983 and earned honorable mention All-America honors in 1981. He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award in both his junior and senior seasons. Marshall was a 1984 first-round draft pick for the Chicago Bears and had a 12-year NFL career, where he was a three-time All-Pro.

Joined by his two daughters, Marshall watched as his name was unveiled and illuminated atop the north end zone, next to Danny Wuerffel. He wiped his eyes, removed his Florida cap and raised both arms to a crowd that responded with a standing ovation.

"You have to be there, I guess," Marshall said. "It's incredible with all the fans yelling. My last game, when I walked away, I was in the middle of that field looking at the fans. And now to get back there and hear the roar, it was just so emotional."

Marshall joins Wuerffel, Steve Spurrier, Emmitt Smith and Jack Youngblood inside the ring.

CALDWELL RETURNS: Senior receiver Andre Caldwell returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained right MCL in his knee. His status all week was listed as a game-time decision.

IMPORTANT VISITORS: Several big-name recruits were expected to attend Saturday's game, among them Armwood tackle Matt Patchan. Also in town was St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.) tailback Darrell Scott, considered by many recruiting services as the best in the nation at his position.

Scott, the No. 1 back prospect by Rivals.com and Scout.com, is 6 feet, 204 pounds and runs a 4.32 40-yard dash. He rushed for 3,194 yards on 337 carries, with 45 touchdowns last season at Moorpark (Calif.) High.

MISSING THE GATORS: There was a time when playing Auburn wasn't so unusual. The two met annually from 1945 until 2002, when the SEC switched to a format that altered how often teams from the East would play teams from the West. Saturday night was the first time the Tigers had been to Gainesville in five years, and Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said he wishes the Gators were still an annual opponent, saying the fans and Tigers players miss the rivalry.

"This game used to be played every year, whether Florida was here or Auburn was in Florida," Tuberville said. "When they went to the new rotation, it was cut out. But our fans miss it and our players miss it and I think both teams miss it. It's been fun to play that game. None of our players (on the 2007 team) have been there, they've missed that experience. But the guys on our team now will get to have that experience as the guys from Florida did last year coming to our stadium. It's always fun, there's always a lot of enthusiasm. It's always something we look forward to.