I didn't think making the transition from watching my high school football team play under the Friday night lights to watching a college football team play on a Saturday night was going to be that big of a deal. I mean, they were both just football games, right?
Wrong. Oh my goodness, was I wrong.
I attended my first football game in The Swamp as a student last Saturday, and the whole day exceeded my expectations more than I could have ever imagined. The saying, "It's great to be a Florida Gator" could not have proven to be any more true. ("In all kinds of weather..." came into play as well.)
I had woken up around 11ish Saturday morning, still pretty tired from venturing around Midtown the previous night, but still awake enough to jump out of bed because IT WAS GAME DAY, BABY. The Muschamp Era was over and Jim McElwain was here.
I had been ready for Gator football to get underway the second I got off the exit to move into my new home in Gainesville.
Even though it was a night game, I knew the party had already begun down on campus; the mass Snapchats I had received at about 9 in the morning from people who were already tailgating we a clue. So, on that note, I somehow fought through the post-Mid fatigue and was ready to go in all of about a half hour -- temporary face tattoo successfully applied and all.
My roommate and I rolled out of our apartment around 11:45, grabbed lunch quickly, and then set off towards campus to see what all the hype was truly about. Both of us were already pretty giddy in all honesty, though: We were blasting music out of my car with the windows rolled down, dancing like fools, and yelling "Go Gators" at every pedestrian we passed on the side of the road.
The windows were down because it was beautiful when we were heading towards UF. The skies had a couple clouds, but nothing too extreme, and the sun was shining. It was, of course, pretty warm, but not blistering hot. It looked to be the perfect game day. After taking a right onto Hull Road, people in orange and blue shirts, dresses, and striped overalls stretched as far as the eye could see.
We also saw the fifty million cars that lined parking lots and grassy areas. And in true newbie fashion, we had no earthly idea where to park. It felt as if we drove around forever in search of a parking spot, literally driving in circles for about an hour until we thankfully found an open spot off Museum Road.
Not even five minutes after walking away from my car, Rainesville came into full effect.
The pretty blue skies had dimmed to a gray overcast, and rain drops were hitting me and my roommate in the face as we looked at each other in confusion on what our next step would be. We went from looking like cute girls ready for a football game to drowned, lost freshmen real quick. After seeking refuge under some trees, we eventually accepted the weather and continued in search of finding our friends who were already tailgating. We still had no idea where exactly we were going -- we seriously were lost freshmen who barely knew their way around campus -- but we weren't going to let that rain on our parade (pun intended).
After a phone call and wasting my cell phone data on Google Maps, we finally found our destination, just about as the rain cleared up. Game day set-ups lined the road -- everything from cornhole sets, to Gator tents, to massive stacks of red Solo cups. Music echoed from speakers in the area, ranging from Florida Georgia Line's "This Is How We Roll" all the way to R Kelly's "Ignition (Remix)." This was all an experience in itself, but what made it really awesome was how pumped everyone was getting for the game, and how happy they were to be there.
I've lived in the panhandle of Florida all my life, so we had quite the mix of teams when it came to fan bases. Having just Gator fans around to get excited with was so cool.
And then game time arrived.
My roommate and I met up with a few other friends right in front of the stadium so we could all find our seats together. It was all kind of a blur getting to our seats, considering there were so many people flooding through the gates. The place was already loud from people cheering, and Fetty Wap was drowning out my friends' conversations to where we basically had to yell at each other. Ben Hill was freaking packed and even though there was still about a half hour until kickoff, the place was already poppin'.
When the "90,277" for fan attendance came across the end zone screen, I was not one bit surprised.
And then came kickoff.
I'd never experienced the student section first-hand before now, but the "Rowdy Reptiles" thing took on a whole new meaning in my mind very quickly. Everyone was going crazy: We literally had just kicked the ball, but by the looks of everyone in the student section you would've thought we all won the lottery. "Let's Go Gators!" and "It's Great to be a Florida Gator!" chants broke out left and right. Once we scored the first touchdown of the game, however, the hype mushroomed. Everyone went absolutely nuts, including myself. The people standing around me were instantly my best friends; we all hugged and cheered together -- not only on all the touchdowns to follow, but even on the drives as well. The fireworks exploding in the sky after every touchdown really added to the magic of the game.
Gator football was here, and I was seriously loving every single second of it.
I had been to Gator games before, but this atmosphere was on another level. Watching games from home is fun, but, I mean ... being there in person is so surreal, especially when you're surrounded by 90,000 other screaming Gators.
And despite the multiple blisters I have from trekking around campus all Saturday, and the fact my sleep schedule is quite off-set, I'm beyond ready to rally in the Swamp all over again this Saturday.
It really is so great to be a Florida Gator.