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Grossman lives in moment

Putting the team before himself, Florida's Rex Grossman enjoys his status - for now - as the starting quarterback without controversy.

[AP photo]
"He could go the distance the entire season, barring injury, if he plays well," coach Steve Spurrier said of Rex Grossman, above.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001


GAINESVILLE -- Rex Grossman flipped on the television Monday to check out the 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter.

That's when reality set in.

He saw himself on ESPN. All over it, in fact. Grossman had been named the starting quarterback for the nation's No. 1 team.

"That was nice," he said with a smile Tuesday morning, giving the thumbs up sign. "I didn't tape it. Hopefully, I'll be on again."

If he plays well, chances are he will make at least a few more appearances, beginning with Saturday night's game against Marshall on ESPN2. Florida coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that in an ideal world, Grossman would be the starter all season with Brock Berlin as his backup.

But everybody knows that in Spurrier's world, there are no absolutes, especially when it comes to playing quarterback.

"He could go the distance the entire season, barring injury, if he plays well, he's in control, if he seems to know what's going on," Spurrier said. "We'd love to have one quarterback who really plays well all year, that would be ideal. ... But I don't know how it's all going to play out."

While a quarterback "controversy" might seem normal for Florida, there is a difference this time around. There is no Jesse Palmer declaring the quarterback controversy a "Cold War." No Doug Johnson trashing his competitor and making brash statements about his unhappiness over the situation. There is no sulking or flaring tempers, at least not in public.

Grossman and Berlin, both sophomores, led their respective high schools to state championships. They have said they realize controversy is a distraction this team does not need. So they have consciously chosen to put team ahead of the individual.

"He's a good friend of mine and a good teammate," Grossman said of Berlin. "There are no problems there and I think we've both handled it well. It's an awkward situation, but we're both still teammates and the ultimate goal is to win championships. I think we always keep that in mind."

The quarterback controversy has been little more than a question.

And the players said nobody really seemed obsessed with finding the answer except fans and the media.

"It seems like y'all get a kick out of it more than we do," tight end Aaron Walker said. "They are great friends and whichever one goes in the ballgame is fine with me because they are both going to get the job done."

Grossman said the key to this year's team is that the players haven't gotten caught up in the quarterback hype.

"Our teammates are going to play hard whoever is back there," he said. "If I play hard and do what I'm supposed to do, then that makes me a leader and I'll be in there if I'm doing what I'm supposed to do."

Coming off a season in which he threw for 1,866 yards and 21 touchdowns, Grossman is prepared to be better.

"I think he's definitely ready to go and there's definitely a big change in him," senior center David Jorgensen said. "He's a lot more confident, he knows the offense a lot better and he's ready to go out there and show what he can do again."

Spurrier also thinks Grossman has great potential. He can cite numerous good plays Grossman had as a freshman but also points out that he made some poor decisions that could have been costly.

Eliminate those and he might keep the job.

"He had a lot of good plays last year and he was real fortunate a lot of other times," Spurrier said. "We were real fortunate that some of his errant throws weren't run all the way back for touchdowns or some of his fumbles were not picked up and run in for touchdowns. He knows what's going on and can make good decisions. He's got a chance to really play well.

"Sometimes he and I don't agree what really playing well is all about yet. We're still trying to get together on that."

Like any smart Florida quarterback, Grossman is living in the moment. He will be the starter Saturday night, he'll do the best he can and then see what happens. That's all he can control.

"I'm comfortable with how well I'm playing right now and I'm going into the game relaxed," Grossman said. "I realize if I don't do what I'm supposed to do, we have a pretty good quarterback behind me. I'm just happy that I have the chance to go the distance, and that's all I need right now."

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