Napier welcomes Trey Burton, Brandon Siler, Kevin Carter and other former Gators to Friday’s practice

As the Gators went at it on the practice field under the heat of the Florida sun Friday, former Gators Trey Burton, Brandon Siler and Kevin Carter watched from the sidelines near the new James W. “Bill” Heavener Training Center.

Invited by head coach Billy Napier, the former players were given a tour of the new facility. For Burton, the state-of-the-art facility is an eye-catching display of Florida football.

“Phenomenal, you can’t beat it. Every aspect of it,” Burton said. “It’s going to be spectacular and I’m excited and happy for the guys that get to use it.”

Burton, an NFL veteran with eight years of experience in the league, compares the Gators new facility to that of the Chicago Bears from his first year with the team. The biggest difference between the two: the user-friendly aspect of the building from the team meeting rooms to the practice facility itself.

“I played in Chicago and my first year in Chicago they just opened up a $100 million facility. Absolutely unbelievable, but it wasn’t user friendly,” the tight end said. “This is so cool; everything is just user and player friendly”.

The facility may have started its construction in the summer of 2020, but many former players like Siler can argue that the players of the past started the foundation of the property.

“There’s no conversation about all of this if you ain’t got these,” Siler said while flaunting his SEC and national championship ring. “I think that we did built this on our back and it feels good to come back and see what it kind of nurtured and formed into. This is like what we did, and it feels good and I think it’s going to help us in the future”.

One area the former Gators linebacker believes the facility can do is to aid in recruitment.

“Napier recruiting like crazy, but this thing here recruits now”, Siler said smiling as he pointed back over to the Gators facility.

The three former players were a part of multiple UF football alumni that were invited to Friday’s training camp.

With coach Napier in year one at the helm, he has quickly integrated those who have donned the orange and blue in Saturdays past into his program. For Carter, it’s a move that gives the UF Hall of Famer a sign of change in Gainesville.

“For us to be invited back, it really means the world,” Carter said. “Every coach who has taken over since coach Spurrier left hasn’t been as inviting. For former players coming back it’s really refreshing to have someone who wants to include the rich history of the Gator program through its players that were here so long ago”.

The welcoming environment that coach Napier has created is unique to the former players. An environment that emphasizes that former players will always be a part of the program.

“You know, sometimes guys come back, you don’t really understand, like are you welcomed back, do they want you back?,” Burton said. “I got the opportunity last month to come to speak in front of some recruits and that was a huge point of emphasis for me was like these guys want us to come back…you’re not just here for four years, three year’s or five years and get kicked out to the road…they want to invest in us, they want us to come back. It’s special for all us former guys.”

As the culture change under coach Napier continues, the program still strays far from the conference giants they once were in the 1990’s.

Carter, who played for the iconic Florida coach Steve Spurrier and was a part of three Southeastern Conference titles in 1991,1993 and 1994, talked about how the Gators can come back to the “Florida standard” in recruiting and talent from the past. The Gator Great says it’s gotta be built organically.

“In this day and age there’s good players everywhere, but how hard you can coach players, how much time you can have with them, what their collected football IQ and your ability as a staff to raise that football IQ along with the toughness and the grit that it takes to realize that you’re at a place like Florida,” Carter said. “You’ve gotta build it, and I think that’s what Billy Napier really represents”.

In training camp, the Gators have been developing their game and keeping a fast pace in practice for the offense. Something that Burton saw first-hand Friday.

The former Gators 2013 team captain enjoyed the quick tempo he saw on the field at practice. Reminding him of something similar from his experiences playing under former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly.

“I love the tempo,” Burton said. “It’s cool to see these guys with how hot it is out here and to be able to be in the shape, physical shape, to do it and on top of that to know what they’re doing and where to be.” From the defensive side of the ball, the two-time national champion Siler is excited to see the redshirt senior linebacker Ventrell Miller. Even wanting to give his support to him, linebacker-to-linebacker, after practice.

“I think he’s gonna be exceptional,” Siler said about Miller. “I think he’s gonna bring a lot of energy and I can’t wait to see him play. I want to actually talk to him before I leave so, I probably holler at him before I leave and let him know he got our support”.

Sophomore quarterback Anthony Richardson has been an eye opener for many this year. Whether by his athletic ability or his adeptness in the shotgun, everyone has their words for the Gainesville native.

Siler says Richardson has an NFL body. Carter says he’s severely talented. For Burton, he just couldn’t believe he was playing quarterback at his size.

“Damn this kid plays quarterback?,” Burton said about his first impressions of Richardson. “He has a cannon for an arm. I’m really excited to watch the progression from last year. Whether it’s reading defenses or getting everyone in the right play. And it seems like from what I hear from other people is just the leadership role he’s taken its excelled over the last couple of years.”

With the former players watching, the Gators continue their preparation for the Utah Utes on Sept.3 as they look forward to their second scrimmage of the fall training camp Saturday.

Brandon Hernandez
Brandon Hernandez is a student at the University of Florida studying journalism. He is a writer for The Alligator, Gator Country and  PlugTalkSports. You can find most of his work on his Twitter (BranH2001) and on his podcast, “The Courtside Podcast,” on Spotify.