It seems like each and every year there’s a walk-on who endears himself to fans with a moment that will last a lifetime, even if he seldom got on the field during his Florida career.
Pasco HS quarterback Jacob Guy decided to walk-on at Florida, and he will be a true freshman this fall.
Two years ago, it was walk-on defensive tackle Gary Beemer who stole the show. With the Gators holding a commanding lead over Appalachian State, coach Urban Meyer gave Beemer three chances to run it in from the goal line. He plunged in on the third attempt, racing to the sideline with a giddy, boyish look you can’t fake, one of the few feel good moments in an otherwise disastrous season.
A year ago, it was walk-on punter David Lerner. Lerner was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease just before fall camp but battled through it to not only remain on the team, but to earn a scholarship and win the starting punting job.
So in the final lull before the 2012 season kicks into full gear with SEC Media Days next week, GatorBait stops to shed a little light on the guys who won’t be squarely in the spotlight next fall. These are some of the walk-ons or former walk-ons with unique stories that help contribute to the team in ways fans don’t always see.
QB Jacob Guy – Guy is a true freshman preferred walk-on from Dade City, Fla. The Pasco High School quarterback turned down DI offers from Massachusetts, Ohio and Western Michigan. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound gunslinger set a couple of Pasco County records in his senior year of high school in 2011, throwing for 2,672 yards and 42 touchdowns, breaking the marks previously held by former FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford.
The incoming freshman signal caller was named the Tampa Bay Times’ North Suncoast Offensive Player of the Year as a junior and the All-Suncoast first-team quarterback as a senior. He is a lifelong Florida fan with season tickets.
“I’ve always been a Gators fan,” Guy told the Times. “The opportunity to go up there to Gainesville and play for the Gators got me there.”
RB Jesse Schmitt – Schmitt is a redshirt junior running back from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. He hasn’t gotten much playing time, with his only career action coming last season in mop-up duty in a blowout win over UAB. Schmitt carried the ball one time for no gain.
Florida fans may be more familiar with Schmitt for what he did before the 2011 season began. At the team’s annual Charity Challenge in late July, he earned his first real recognition by winning the team’s push-up contest, doing about 180 total in increments of 20. The Palm Beach Gardens native plans on entering the Marine Corps when he’s done with school.
QB Christian Provancha – Provancha is a redshirt sophomore from Cocoa, Fla. He has been around for two years now, and he grabbed fans’ eyes during the 2011 spring game when he threw a 39-yard touchdown to receiver Robert Clark at the end of the game.
At 6 foot 6, 222 pounds, Provancha has remarkably good size for a quarterback. At Cocoa Beach High School, he set a handful of records, throwing for 2,864 yards and 33 touchdowns. He set the single-season school record for touchdowns with 17 in his senior season, en route to earning Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year honors. He graduated high school Magna Cum Laude as an IB student.
Provancha is also semi-famous for his piano-playing skills. Prior to the 2011 Outback Bowl against Penn State, he starred in a music video with Jeff Demps, Brandon Antwine and a few other members of the Florida football team, performing pieces such as One Republic’s “Apologize” and Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.” (Video above)
RB Scott Peek – Peek is now a redshirt senior from Tampa, Fla. He came to Florida as a linebacker, and he has seen only limited action during his career. He did not appear in a single game in his first two seasons, before making his debut against Appalachian State in 2010. He racked up two tackles in that game, the only ones of his career so far.
In the spring, Florida decided to move Peek to fullback. At 6 foot 2, 239 pounds, Peek is a player who could certainly get some live game action if the Gators get up big. His father and grandfather both played at Florida, making Scott the third generation of Peek players at Florida. He is one of seven children.
Peek was awarded a scholarship prior to the 2011 season and will likely remain on scholarship for the 2012 season.
QB Ryan McGriff – McGriff is a redshirt freshman quarterback from Gainesville who took a preferred walk-on position with the team after coach Will Muschamp took over the reins. If his name sounds familiar, it should. McGriff is the son of former Florida tight end Mark McGriff, whose father Perry C. McGriff was a split end for the Gators. Perry’s cousin was former walk-on turned first-team All-SEC receiver Lee McGriff, whose son was famous Florida wideout Travis McGriff.
Ryan McGriff is a 6-foot, 201-pound quarterback who played at local Gainesville High School, where he passed for about 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns. He helped run the scout team offense a year ago, and McGriff told the Gainesville Sun when he came to Florida he couldn’t ask for a better situation.
"It's not a scholarship, but it's the next best thing for me at my dream school," Ryan McGriff said. "I've lived in Gainesville my whole life, so it's pretty much a dream come true, actually. I'm moving a mile and half from my house. It can't get any better than that."