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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Rivals related? When the lines between Florida and Georgia blur

The longtime opponents aren’t far apart geographically, which creates some interesting relationships for local players

Florida's Brenton Cox Jr. (1) played for Georgia to begin his collegiate career, and Trey Dean III (0) grew up in the Peach State.
Florida's Brenton Cox Jr. (1) played for Georgia to begin his collegiate career, and Trey Dean III (0) grew up in the Peach State.

The Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs football teams are defined by their legendary rivalry. The schools, barely over 300 miles apart, battle each fall as power shifts from decade to decade. Fans from both states trek to Jacksonville as state lines  blur into one of the most prominent matchups in  college football. 

The two rivals’ proximity adds another interesting layer to the theatrics — overlapping connections.

Florida quarterback Emory Jones actually hails from LaGrange, Georgia. During his time with the Heard County Braves, Jones played in the 2018 Under Armour All-American Game. Through the first eight games of his senior season, the four-star prospect went 61 of 103 for 1,197 yards and 10 passing touchdowns. 

Jones talked about his adolescence in Georgia in a press conference on Oct. 11, including his childhood rooting interest.

“Being from Georgia, I was always a Georgia fan until a certain time I started going towards being an Ohio State guy.” 

Jones isn’t the only Georgia native on the team. Outside linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. was born in Stockbridge, Georgia, and was voted the Henry Herald Defensive Player of the Year, given to the best defensive player in Henry County. The former five-star prospect and No. 3 prospect in the state initially stood on the opposing sideline, playing 13 games for the Bulldogs in 2018 before transferring to the Gators. 

Cox didn’t hide his feelings about his former home ahead of his first appearance on Florida’s end of the rivalry last season.

“It’ll definitely be personal,” Cox said last October. “I just can’t wait to play them. Can’t wait to get the win”

The redshirt junior took down his former team, contributing three total tackles and a tackle for loss, and looks to secure a second straight win against the red and black. 

Eight other Gators hail from the Peach State according to the team roster, with notables including safety Trey Dean III, running back Dameon Pierce and linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper. Graduate transfer Tyrone Truesdell, who joined the Gators from Auburn shortly before the season started, also finds roots in Georgia, and linebacker Chief Bordes attended Jones’ alma mater, Heard County.

The Gators and Bulldogs will face off on Oct. 30, adding another chapter to a rivalry with a few extra layers for some on the field. 

Contact Brian Olmo at bolmo@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianOlmo0211.

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