Earlier this week, in writing about Andrew Chatfield’s transfer plans, I quipped that I do not know who Dante Zanders is — despite him appearing on Florida’s depth chart at defensive end.
It turns out that I do know who Dante Zanders is — he’s the former Dante Lang.
Zanders apparently changed his last name, or at least what he’s going to go by as a Gator, at some point this offseason. He did this with absolutely no fanfare, and without bothering to change that name on social media, as his still-in-use Twitter and Instagram profiles continue to use the Lang name. He also flipped his number from No. 81 to No. 18.
And, to be brutally honest, he’s insignificant enough to the public perception of Florida’s football program that we don’t have any clue why he changed his name or his number. It hasn’t been mentioned in a press conference or written about that I can find, and I sincerely doubt too many people who aren’t scouring Florida’s roster have noticed.
Maybe that’s the way Dante Zanders likes it.
One thing we often lose sight of as fans in watching football is that the players we are watching live full and complete lives whether or not they are doing the things we would like them to do on the field. My perception of Dante Lang was of a lightly-recruited tight end and defensive end in high school who hasn’t really made an impact on the field at either spot as a Gator — but I have no impression of Dante Zanders.
Maybe that’s the point.
Or maybe the point is that, whatever his name is on Florida’s roster, Zanders is years into a college career that probably ends with a degree he might not have had except for football, experiences he might not have gotten if not for coming to Florida, friends he might not have made were it not for 5 a.m. conditioning sessions that we’ll never see.
I know who Dante Zanders is now — but I don’t know Dante Zanders.
And you know what? That’s okay. If his story, his name, and his life aren’t relevant to mine despite him playing the game that we watch, that cheapens neither his nor my existence.
Here’s hoping that, whether we have reason to know his name or not, Dante keeps whichever one he wants on his back — and his head held high.