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Swamp is a new world for Savelio


© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 29, 2001

GAINESVILLE -- During the best of times, the biggest crowd Bryan Savelio played in front of was about 100 people -- the average number of fans who showed up to watch Mesa (Arizona) Junior College play.

So when the junior defensive tackle makes his starting debut Saturday in front of 85,000 at Florida Field, he isn't sure what he'll do.

"I think I might faint when I go out there and hear all the noise," Savelio said. "As of right now, I don't know what it's going to feel like. There's no words to express how it's going to feel for me. At my high school, we barely won any games, and at my junior college we barely won any games and now I'm at the University of Florida where it's practically a dynasty. It's like a different world to me."

DID YOU SAY "MOM"?: Former Armwood standout Mike Pearson has added a new dimension to his relationship with his fiancee, Melissa Merrill. He has made her the "team mom" for some of his teammates.

"Me, Aaron Walker and Todd Johnson all live together (along with Brock Berlin) and we've designated my fiancee as the team mom, and so she makes dinner for us every Monday night," Pearson said. "Last night was the first one. It was pretty nice having a little dinner when we came home from practice. She did a good job last night. Hopefully, she can keep it going."

On the menu? Beef pot pie.

"It was pretty good, too," Walker said.

MIXED EMOTIONS: It will be an unusual weekend for basketball coach Billy Donovan.

Six years ago, Donovan was attending Marshall football games and cheering for the Herd while serving as the Marshall basketball coach.

On Saturday, he will be wearing orange and blue at Florida Field.

"There will be a lot of people that certainly I became very close with during my few years at Marshall that will come to Gainesville, and I will have an opportunity to see some people," Donovan said.

"It will be a little bit different, certainly, watching them play, because I used to go to the Marshall games when I was there in Huntington," he said. "Having them come in here will be unique. Obviously Bob Pruett, who was defensive coordinator here for a while, I'm sure it's a great challenge for him to come back here to play. So there's a lot of things out there which will be interesting for me."

STREAKS ON THE LINE: The first and last time Florida lost a season opener to a nonconference opponent was 1938, when the Gators lost to Stetson 16-14.

The Gators are 11-0 in season and home openers under coach Steve Spurrier.

DOUBLE DIPPING: The soccer and volleyball teams begin their seasons this weekend.

The volleyball team hosts the SunTrust Invitational, including Marshall, South Florida and Arizona. Florida plays Marshall at 2 Friday, followed by USF at 7:30. The Gators play No. 6 Arizona at 4:40 Saturday. All games are at the O'Connell Center. Fans with football tickets get in free Saturday.

The soccer team plays Utah at 6 Friday and No. 15 Stanford at 4 Sunday. Admission is free.

GATOR CENTERFOLD: Former Florida center Tamara Stocks is one of the featured models in Playboy's Girls of the Southeastern Conference issue.

Stocks, a member of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA, isn't nude but bares quite a bit for the pictorial.

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