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Football players asked to volunteer for GPD's ride-along

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Posted: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 12:00 am

During the next few weeks, expect to see Florida football players seated in the front, not the back, of local police cruisers.

In four years, the UF football team has racked up 21 arrests, including nine felonies, and three citations. In light of these numbers, the University Athletic Association and Gainesville Police Department partnered to provide a way for players to see what the other side of law enforcement is like.

Football players can volunteer to attend a ride-along with GPD officers between 5 p.m. and 4 a.m., the department's busiest hours, said GPD spokesman Lt. Mike Schibuola.

"Students get arrested every weekend, but student-athletes get more attention," he said, adding that the arrest rate is similar for both groups. According to Schibuola, about 25 students are arrested every weekend, usually for possession of alcohol by a minor or underage drinking.

In April 2007, former offensive guard Ronnie Wilson was arrested on charges of battery and discharging a firearm in public, an incident that sparked the phrase "University of Felons in Gunsville, Fla." to be used by Gator critics.

Wilson reportedly spat on someone outside of a Gainesville nightclub, took an AK-47 assault rifle out of the trunk of a car and fired it into the air.

After two charges for marijuana possession and a misdemeanor for battery and assault, Wilson was kicked off the team.

Earlier this month, starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins was Tasered and arrested after fighting five people outside of a Gainesville nightclub.

Steve Russell, radio personality for AM 850's "Sport Scene," feels the arrests of Florida football players has been sensationalized.

"In the summer, stories that might not be a big deal in the heat of competition become a little more blown up because there is nothing going on," Russell said.

Still, Russell does not excuse the rate of UF football player arrests.

"Bottom line, there are probably too many, and it is the head coach's responsibility to help make it better," Russell said.

Welcome to the discussion.