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Florida vs. South Carolina, Game Thread: Gators search for stability on Senior Day

It’s been a hell of a ride for the Gators who are getting senior sendoffs on this Saturday.

NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I wish I had better words for the Florida Gators on this Senior Day.

It’s been ... a bit of a week in my neck of the woods. (Pro tip: Try to go through hurricanes at a time when your garage door that got destroyed by a fire is on the garage, rather than when the space left just has plywood on it.) And that has just added to what’s felt like a never-ending series of calamities of various provenance and magnitude in my life over the last few years.

I’m tired. Really, really tired.

But I thought today about just how tired Ventrell Miller might be.

He didn’t just commit to Jim McElwain, after all — he committed back in June of 2016, signed with the Gators in February 2017 (back when Early Signing Day hasn’t completely eclipsed National Signing Day), enrolled at Florida in June 2017, got cited for marijuana possession that August alongside James Robinson before Robinson was medically disqualified from playing college football, didn’t play as a true freshman, slated in between C.J. McWilliams and Khairi Clark on Florida’s tackles list as a redshirt freshman, finished second on the team in tackles as a redshirt sophomore, had an insane 86 tackles in the COVID-marred 2020 season, got hurt early on in 2021 and missed what should have been a redshirt senior year, came back for a sixth season, and is now venerated as the veteran leader of Florida’s defense under his third Florida head coach.

That’s ... a lot. And I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel for a man who has spent about a quarter of his life running into and chasing down other dudes in orange and blue.

He’s not alone, either, with players like Amari Burney and Trey Dean also giving larger percentages of their lives to the Gators than most seniors have. There are bonds that teams forge, and then there are the ones that trauma does — and even if Florida had been the model of stability in college football for their careers, the upheaval of the world is sure to have weighed heavily on their minds and souls.

For them far more than me, I hope today is fun — that the tears are happy tears, and the game is an enjoyable romp over a South Carolina team that Florida simply outclasses. I don’t know how likely that is; I just know it’s what I want.

They deserve that. And much more.

Go Gators.