Several Gators heard their phones buzz and ring on Saturday morning.
A text message from offensive coordinator Brent Pease read: “Nature walk. 1:30. Don’t be late.”
The proposition was nothing new for Pease. The Moscow, Idaho, native traditionally took his players on “nature walks” prior to road games in previous jobs.
Saturday’s trek was his first since joining coach Will Muschamp’s staff at Florida.
“You just go out. You see different parts. You talk about things,” Pease said. “Some kids are smart. You never realize that a kid from Florida understands that the bark on a birch tree sheds. A kid from Connecticut did not know that. He did not know there are pine needles that fall off pine trees. He didn’t realize that.”
What qualifies Pease to lead these educational tours?
“I’m from the Northwest,” Pease said. “I like the outdoors.”
And what’s the biggest challenge?
“They’re like 18-to 21-year-old kids. They don’t pay attention at all,” Pease said. “They all have attention issues at times.”
Quarterback Tyler Murphy was one player who paid attention.
Murphy, who made his first career start in Florida’s 24-7 victory against Kentucky on Saturday night in Lexington, Ky., enjoyed the nature walk. The redshirt junior said the activity cleared his head and relieved some anxiety.
“He knows a lot about nature,” Murphy said of Pease. “It’s kind of cool just to learn about different trees and bushes and stuff like that. It was fun.”
But how well did Murphy pay attention?
“What did I learn? Uh, that’s awful,” Murphy said Monday. “I learned a bunch of different stuff. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. You know, I learned a few things about oak trees, saw grass, and just stuff like that.”
Pease assured reporters Tuesday that Murphy did indeed learn during the nature walk. An outdoorsman like Pease ensured Murphy gained knowledge from the experience.
“He learned something. You just caught him off guard,” Pease said. “If you would have really given him time to think about it, he would have known that.
“He also learned that you don’t venture too far out when you’re doing it on a golf course because the guys sometimes don’t holler, ‘Fore!’ So, we almost got hit by golf balls, and then I said, ‘Bad idea. We need to get off of here.’”
Meanwhile, sophomore Matt Jones did not hear good reviews. Running backs were not invited, so Jones did not make the trip.
“I heard it was boring,” Jones said.
Perhaps Jones was bitter he didn’t receive an invitation.
Pease responded: “Well, you know what, how does he know? He wasn’t there. Sometimes, it is boring.
“It’s like going to class. It’s boring. Practice is probably boring. But if you just listen to all the knowledge you can gain from something out there, it’s not about boring.
“It’s about how much you learned that you didn’t know. It’s kind of like watching ‘Duck Dynasty’.
“There’s a lot you can learn by watching ‘Duck Dynasty’ that you didn’t know.”
Although Pease doesn’t host nature walks before home games, he is open to continuing the tradition when Florida travels to Baton Rouge, La., to play LSU on Oct. 12.
“I think they enjoyed it,” Pease said of the experience. “Five of them said thanks. They went in and had some knowledge of things we talked about.
“I don’t look it as a nature walk as much as we got them out of the hotel. They weren’t sitting around. They got their mind right, loosened up a little bit, even talked football a little bit.”
Follow Joe Morgan on Twitter @joe_morgan.