Kurt Roper is a football lifer.
Because his father, Bobby Roper, coached at the collegiate level while he was growing up, Kurt grew up on football fields across the country until he was old enough to play on them. After his playing career ended at Rice University in 1994, he took to the sidelines, grabbed a clipboard and has been following in his father’s footsteps ever since.
But despite the amount of time he has spent around the sport, Roper has never seen a sight quite like Saturday night’s “false start” in the Swamp.
“I’m 42 years old and been around college football my whole career . . . since I was born,” Roper said Tuesday. “And that’s the first (game) I’ve ever been around that wasn’t played. So, no. It was a first.”
After a two-hour, 48-minute weather delay, the Gators took the field for the opening kickoff only to be told immediately following the play that they had to return to the locker room.
Jake McGee, who transferred during the offseason from Virginia, was supposed to make his Florida debut and show the fans his potential in Roper’s spread offense. However, what was scheduled to be a test run for McGee and the new system turned into the redshirt senior’s most deflating affair.
“It’s one of the weirdest feelings I think I’ve ever had with football,” said the 6-foot-6, 245-pound tight end. “You put a whole week of game prep in, do the whole pre-game, do really everything and then the game doesn’t happen. It sort of an empty feeling, I guess.”
While Gator fans in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium had the option to either stick out the weather delay or find shelter elsewhere and return later, the players had no choice but to wait in the locker room.
And because the storm had the potential to end at anytime, Florida’s athletes stayed alert and studied the gameplan laid out for them earlier in the week. If the Gators were to be called upon to take the field once again, they did not want to be caught unprepared and unfocused when facing the Vandals.
“We was still getting ready, like game ready,” safety Jabari Gorman said. “A lot of guys just up getting their legs warmed, just things to keep the body warm. I mean, we was ready.”
Still, having to endure a dragged out delay in a chilled locker room in soaking uniforms and pads caused some players to become a little antsier than others.
Some, like kicker Frankie Velez and defensive tackle Joey Ivie, tweeted out their growing hunger.
“(There’s) about a hundred guys in the locker room,” Jeff Driskel said. “Food goes quick.”
Some, like Dante Fowler, Jr., expressed more anger than anything.
“Never felt this rage before,” Fowler tweeted after learning the game was suspended.
No matter what the Gators felt Saturday night sitting in that locker room, each one is relaying the same message now: Florida is more than ready to begin its most anticipated football season in recent history.
UF is scheduled to kickoff 2014 against Eastern Michigan on Saturday at 4 p.m. Gorman said having been teased this weekend has just hyped him up and his entire team to face off against the Eagles.
“We’re more determined,” said the team captain. “We’re more hungry to go out there and show our fans and our family that we ready to play for this season.”
And Gorman, who said earlier this fall camp that he likes to play safety because it allows him to hit more people, is now itching more than ever to strap on a helmet and deliver some punishing blows on Florida’s Field.
“Oh I wish tomorrow was Saturday. You know? We all ready. That’s all we can think of is Saturday."
Follow Jonathan Czupryn on Twitter @Jczupryn
Jabari Gorman (21) tackles Arkansas running back Alex Collins (3) during Florida's 30-10 win on Oct. 5, 2013, in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.