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Florida to play Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” after third quarter vs. LSU

A great way to honor a native son.

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers Perform At The Viejas Arena Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Florida and Gainesville have been mourning the death of Gainesville native Tom Petty since his passing on Monday at the age of 66. On Saturday, the Florida Gators will honor him by adding to one of their most hallowed traditions: Playing Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “I Won’t Back Down” after “We Are the Boys” between the third and fourth quarters of their game against LSU.

At the end of the third quarter, after the UF band plays "We Are the Boys from Old Florida" and fans lock arms and sway as they sing the UF spirit song, Petty's famous tune "I Won't Back Down" will blast across Steve Spurrier/Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to honor a local legend treasured by Gator Nation and far beyond.

"Let's celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,'' Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. "Since we are already singing 'We are the Boys,' let's go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators."

Perhaps a new tradition will be born.

"We encourage fans to sing along as a way to honor a local legend and share a special moment in his music,'' said Alicia Longworth, assistant athletics director of marketing and promotions. "Tom Petty is a beloved figure for so many Gator fans."

While that idea that a new tradition will be born is probably more editorializing from Scott Carter than a suggestion, and the addition of another song to the moment when Gators sing and sway is a little awkward, a tribute to Petty was an imperative for this weekend’s game. Given how deeply his roots in Gainesville shaped a career that took him far from the swamp and The Swamp, and how deeply beloved Petty is among those who have called Gainesville home, a moment to celebrate him in unison is sure to be a catharsis for the tens of thousands in attendance — and likely for millions more, if Florida captures and shares the moment with those who cannot be there in the flesh.

Catharsis would also be a good thing for fans in attendance after another week of wicked news for the world. Florida will pay tribute to the lives lost in a mass shooting event in Las Vegas earlier this week with a pregame moment of silence.