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Andy Staples : From Gator Sidelines to Story Lines

The past few years we have had a new face covering our Gators and his name is Andy Staples who covers the Gator Beat. The Gator Report with Andy Staples is the new staple over in the Tribune Sports section. Until recently, I was just familiar with Mr. Staples the Gator journalist. It was just recently I found out that Andy is a Gator and has one of these:

1996 NCAA Championship Ring

After finding out this fact, Swamp Ball has been busy trying to line up a short question and answer with the the former walk on Gator football player. I'd like to say Andy was very approachable and great interview. On to the interview:

1) tell me about the past weekend. what was it like being back in Gainesville as part of 96 reunion. Did you get a chance to talk with Steve Spurrier or any former teammates in particular?

The reunion was especially cool. The people at the University Athletic Association did an exceptional job setting it up. I did get to speak to coach Spurrier, who recognizes me more as a reporter than as a former walk-on scrub. His first words to me were, "Shouldn't you be writin'?" I saw a bunch of former teammates that I hadn't seen in a long time, but one guy was the talk of the reunion. Offensive lineman Pat Browning - my roommate for Sugar Bowl week - weighed about 330 pounds in his playing days. He came back Saturday weighing about 190. Nobody could believe it. If he ever writes a diet book, I'm buying it.

2) If you could comment on the state of the running game.Do you see as running back by comittee again this year or do you have some insight on who could be the featured back this year?

I don't think Florida's running game is as bad as the coaches make it out to be. DeShawn Wynn and Kestahn Moore are both serviceable backs, but Urban Meyer is right on one point. Those guys need to start making people miss if they ever hope to break a long run. If Wynn can stay healthy, I can see him as the featured back. The guy has a rare combination of size, speed and agility. He just needs to put it all together. He seems properly motivated this season, but, like I said, he has to stay healthy.

3) Going into Knoxville under the lights next weekend will be tough enough. Coming back without a win would be a devastating blow on this year's agenda. Describe the reaction from Gator Nations if we do not deliver a win against the Vols.

If Florida doesn't beat Tennessee, it makes that brutal October stretch even worse. Think about it this way. If Florida beats Tennessee and Georgia, then the Gators probably can lose to LSU and Auburn and still win the SEC east because the tiebreaker favors the team that goes undefeated within the division. If Florida loses to Tennessee, the Gators probably will have to go undefeated against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia to climb back into the race. The chances of any team running the table in the SEC are slim, so the division titles are most likely going to go to the teams that can beat their divisional opponents.

4) In covering the Gators, do you have a home base in Gainesville or do you do alot of traveling. Do you attend road games? What's it like covering a team you went to school at?

I live in Gainesville, just mere steps from David's Real Pit Bar-B-Q (MMMMM, barbecue). I go to all the road games in football and most of them in basketball. Living two hours from my boss is wonderful, I have to admit. Covering the school I attended really doesn't change how I do my job. If the Gators screw up, I'm going to write about it. I can't treat Florida any differently than I did Tennessee, which I covered for two years for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. To give a school special treatment because I went there - or in my case, played there - is unfair to the readers. Though a lot of fans won't admit it, they want to know the truth about their favorite school - good or bad. Readers can smell out the beat writers who essentially are shills for the teams they cover, and those writers do a disservice to the people who pay their salary (the readers).