No stranger to Florida Field, Michael Cizek played the sousaphone last Fall with The Pride of Sunshine, one of many marching in the cluster of orange-and-blue uniforms.
But all eyes will be on Cizek on Saturday.
At the home game against East Carolina University, he’ll step on the field once again, but this time he’ll be commanding the crowd alone as Mr. Two Bits. In seersucker pants, a yellow button-down shirt and an orange-and-blue striped tie, he’ll lead the famous cheer:
"Two-bits, four-bits, six-bits, a dollar. All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"
Cizek, 19, said he couldn’t believe the University Athletic Association chose him as the winner of this year’s Mr. Two Bits competition Monday.
"I know what it’s like to step down on cherished ground, especially on game day," the UF finance sophomore said. "I definitely don’t take that for granted."
This is the second year the UAA opened the tradition to students, said Alicia Longworth, the UAA assistant athletic director of marketing and promotions. Students were encouraged to submit videos of their best rendition of the classic Two-Bits chant, and for the first time, it was up to the Gator Nation to vote for the winner.
Last year, the decision was up to UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, former Florida running back Errict Rhett and former UF Student Body President Cory Yeffet.
"We just hoped to find a student who loved the University of Florida and the traditions that Mr. Two Bits stands for," said Longworth, who oversaw the competition.
Cizek, who said he was one of two people to submit a video, will also continue as Mr. Two Bits at Gator Growl on Nov. 6. He also won tickets to Busch Gardens’ Howl-O-Scream.
Chris Yanes, a first-year UF architecture graduate student, was a finalist. A lifelong Gator fan, the 22-year-old said it was important not to forget the original Mr. Two Bits, George Edmondson Jr.
"I met Mr. Two Bits when I was 9 or 10 years old going to the game, and it’s like when you meet somebody and think they’re larger than life," Yanes said. "He was just one of those people."
Yanes said he applied to be Mr. Two Bits because it’s one of the SEC’s best traditions and represents what a true fan looks like.
The tradition began in 1949, when UF played The Citadel, which Edmondson had attended. The Gators were being booed, forcing Edmondson to stand up and cheer.
It was a high school cheer, so everyone knew it, said Jane, his wife of 40 years. He was always positive and strived to support the students from the stands.
"When he talked to groups, he would always say, ‘Just remember, never boo the other team; be enthusiastic and cheer for your team,’" she said.
Although he never attended UF, Edmondson, now 93, carried on the home-game tradition for 60 years.
"He loved doing it, loved being a part of it," Jane Edmondson said. "It was wild — he was hot and sweaty."
He and his wife live in Tampa, where he watches the Gator games on TV every week — even though the Two-Bits cheer doesn’t make it on screen.
Since he retired in 2008, 13 people have taken on the role of Mr. Two Bits. Typically they’ve been athletes or other well-known figures.
Cizek is preparing for his turn as Mr. Two Bits by watching Edmondson cheer on YouTube.
"I want to be as close to the tradition that he started as possible," he said. "And I don’t want to look like too much of a goober down there."
Maddy-Grace Black was one of more than 9,000 people to vote.
With alumni for parents, the 19-year-old said she was practically born wearing Gator diapers.
Black, a UF family, youth and community sciences sophomore, said she promoted Cizek’s video on social media because she thought he was up to the challenge of leading the stadium as the legendary Mr. Two Bits.
"I see that in Michael: a lot of leadership and passion about being a Gator."
Cizek showed off his Mr. Two Bits potential in his video, which he shot at the Florida vs. Florida State University soccer game.
Garrett Mulholland, a UF finance sophomore, held the camera as Cizek road his orange-and-blue tandem bicycle down Stadium Road.
"As long as I’ve known him, he’s really always not been afraid to be himself," Mulholland, 20, said, "and the heart of Mr. Two Bits is about being yourself, not for the sake of notoriety, but for falling in love with your university."
Cizek said he will be channeling all the Gator pride and energy he used this summer as a Preview staffer on the field Saturday.
He remembers interacting with the freshman, their eyes wide with excitement over becoming Gators.
"I think that I’ll be able to share that with the entire crowd this Saturday," he said.
Michael Cizek, a 19-year-old UF finance sophomore, Gator Chomps while bicycling down Stadium Road. He was chosen by the University Athletic Association as the winner of this year’s Mr. Two Bits competition Monday.