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Sunday, February 28, 2021
<p>Tyrie Cleveland (89) runs toward the end zone during Florida's 40-14 win over Missouri on Oct. 15, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.</p>

Tyrie Cleveland (89) runs toward the end zone during Florida's 40-14 win over Missouri on Oct. 15, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Tyrie Cleveland tries to block it out.

It helps when he puts on his helmet and his pads and runs onto the practice field, when he gets to forget about everything else. But then practice ends, and he can’t help but think about his aunt, his cousins and his friends back in Houston many of whom were affected by Tropical Storm Harvey this weekend.

“I just kept them in my prayers,” said Cleveland, a sophomore receiver on Florida’s football team. “I’m going to continue to keep them in my prayers.”

Cleveland, who was born and raised in Jacksonville, moved to Houston when he was in middle school. He returned to Florida after he announced his commitment to UF on National Signing Day in 2016, bolstering a Florida recruiting class that was looking for a top-end wide receiver.

Cleveland said about four feet of rain and some flooding has reached his family’s home in Houston, but no water is in their house. They’re doing OK, Cleveland said. But they’re still on his mind.

“(I’m) very worried,” Cleveland said. “Being out here, (I) can’t do nothing about it.”

With a matchup against No. 11 Michigan at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, looming on Saturday, Cleveland said it has been difficult to balance football and the concern he has for his friends and family.

“There is real life happening down there, especially in that Houston area,” UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday. “We’re obviously conscious of that and feel for those people and what they’re going through.”

According to the University Athletic department, Florida and Michigan have partnered with organizers from the Arlington-based Advocare Classic, the Dallas-based Cotton Bowl and the Dallas Cowboys to encourage fans to donate to relief funds through the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“We are very mindful of the damage and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey,” Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin said in a release, “and are hopeful that Gators and Wolverines can come together to provide assistance to those who are in need.”

According to The National Weather Service, Harvey has set a record for total rainfall by a tropical cyclone in the continental United States. According to the New York Times, there have been 30 confirmed or suspected flood-related deaths in the Houston area since Harvey hit.

Cleveland said his family is still in their house because water has not gotten in, and “they’re handling it.” He added that it has helped that teammates have checked on him and asked about his family.

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“There’s a lot of supportive people on the team,” Cleveland said.

Even with the support from his teammates, Cleveland is usually on the phone as soon as practice ends, talking with friends or family and asking for updates.

“I’ve sent millions of texts,” Cleveland said.

You can follow Ian Cohen on Twitter @icohenb, and contact him at icohen@alligator.org.

Tyrie Cleveland (89) runs toward the end zone during Florida's 40-14 win over Missouri on Oct. 15, 2016, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

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