38 days to Florida Gator football! #38 – Willie J. McGrady (12/19/1968 – 5/17/1999). Willie McGrady of Palatka, Florida via Dothan, Alabama, played middle guard/ nose tackle and fullback for Galen Hall‘s Florida Gators from 1987 to 1988. At 6’3″, 247 pounds, and blessed with 4.5-speed, he was strong enough to pave the way for Emmitt Smith as blocking fullback or plow through opposing SEC offensive lines as middle guard/ nose tackle–in the same game! Willie was the first Gator to play both offense and defense in the same game since the mid-1960s when NCAA mandated two-way play for scholarship players. Willie loved hitting people so much, that he was also used on punt and kick coverage. Opposing players often remarked that they would avoid hitting him or aim for his shoelaces, because he was so solid and painful to hit. Although Emmitt Smith was a great running back in his own right, he often gives credit to Willie for paving the way during his freshman and sophomore years, most notably Emmitt’s 224-yard coming out party against Alabama in 1987. Unfortunately, Willie was diagnosed with congenital neck problems and was forced to leave the team after his sophomore season of 1988. Dejected and depressed, he wandered up and down the east coast and spent some time in prison before deciding to get his life together. He returned to University of Florida in 1992, finished his degree in therapeutic recreation in 1994, met his future wife and began his new life helping emotionally handicapped kids. Tragically, Willie was shot and killed in May of 1999.
- 45 days to Florida Gator football (walterkilar.wordpress.com)
- 56 days to Florida Gator football (walterkilar.wordpress.com)