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Mr. Two–Bits to retire after 60 years of cheers

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Posted: Friday, October 24, 2008 12:00 am

Clad in a yellow shirt, blue blazer and an orange and blue striped tie, George Edmondson Jr. first made the trip from Tampa to Gainesville to watch the Gators play in 1949.

Edmondson, who became known as "Mr. Two-Bits," ended up making a trip to almost every Gator home game for the next 60 years.

After decades of leading cheers at UF's home football games, Edmondson, 86, is retiring at the end of this football season.

He will be honored with a tribute at the football game against Kentucky on Saturday. Fans are asked to show up early and wear orange.

Edmondson said he's ready to become just a regular fan again.

He's ready to sit in the stands and wear an orange or blue shirt and have no one recognize him, he said.

He said he's getting old and wants to start slowing down.

"I'm not as young as I used to be," he said.

He picked this year to retire because 60 is a nice, round number and because the last home game this season is against the Citadel, his alma mater, he said.

To say Edmondson became a Gators fan at that game in 1949 would be an understatement.

At the first game he attended, he said the fans booed when the team came out on the field.

The Gators were bad back then, he said.

"In fact, they were the whipping dogs of the Southeastern Conference," he said.

Despite the Gators' mistakes, Edmondson said he didn't understand why the fans would boo their own team.

"I said, you know, I've never booed in my life on anything, and they're just kids out there trying," he said. "Let's cheer for 'em."

So he decided to adapt an old cheer from high school: "Two bits! Four bits! Six bits! A dollar! All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"

Whenever the team would make a mistake, he said, he would start the cheer.

It started slowly, he said. Ten people, 20, then 30 and 50. After a few seasons, hundreds of people would cheer with him.

Then in the late '70s or early '80s, the athletic director asked him if he would lead the cheer from the middle of the field, and he agreed.

He was apprehensive at first, he said, but he was hooked after the first time.

"When I went out there and blew my whistle and got everybody quiet and held my sign up and started leading my cheer, it was fantastic," he said. "The response was unbelievable, and I've been doin' it ever since."

In 1998, after about 50 years of cheering, he decided to retire, he said. But the next season, UF asked him to come back, and he couldn't resist.

"I said, well, Michael Jordan retired and came back so, so can I," he said.

This time, he said, it's for real.

Over the years, he's missed only three home games: two because he was out of town on business and one because he was sick, he said.

"I've seen so much football," Edmondson said.

He doesn't get paid for his cheerleading, he said. He even buys his own tickets, though he does get a special pass to access the field.

Though many people might think he went to UF, he never did. He did receive an honorary alumnus title from UF in 2005.

Mike Hill, UF's associate athletics director of external affairs, said after Edmondson retires, Albert the Alligator will lead the cheer in the Mr. Two-Bits costume.

Many students will be sad to see him go.

"It sucks," said Zach Bazara, a first-year law student at UF. "It is kind of an end of an era."

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