Florida will wear an American flag-themed version of its script Gators logo as a helmet decal and don flag-themed shoes for its Saturday meeting with USF on the 20th anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the program announced Thursday.
The decal — which adorns the G in Gators with the blue field and white stars of the American flag, then features white and red-that-could-look-orange-to-some stripes for most of the rest of the letters in a wavy pattern reminiscent of a flag flapping in the wind — appears to be the only patriotic touch Florida’s players will wear on Saturday. Photos taken at a Gainesville fire department and released in conjunction with the announcement show Tampa natives Zachary Carter and Malik Davis wearing the same all-white traditional road outfit that the Gators wore for their season opener against FAU.
Head coach Dan Mullen’s picture of flag-themed Jordan XII sneakers, meanwhile, would seem to suggest that he — and perhaps other Florida coaches — will don them on the sidelines, but none of the photos show Carter or Davis in specialized cleats.
For Florida, this will be just the third time playing a football game on September 11 since 2001, following a 2004 game against Eastern Michigan and a 2010 meeting with — in a bit of symmetry — USF. Both of those games were home contests.
Saturday’s game will take place at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, the stadium USF (currently, anyway) shares with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, little more than half an hour north of MacDill Air Force Base. And while Florida’s tribute is explicitly to first responders and features only Gainesville Fire Department employees, tributes to other first responders — paramedics and police officers — and military service members are likely to be a part of Saturday’s game.
Florida also played UAB on September 10, 2011, a day shy of the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. For that game, the Gators ran onto the field behind a few players carrying American flags — including, most memorably, Dominique Easley, whose intensity in the tunnel produced indelible images like this one shot by Getty photographer Sam Greenwood.
I would expect a similar flag-carrying charge — possibly from both teams — this Saturday.