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Sunday January 1, 2012Gators' let's-get-physical bowl practices took on special meaning for assistants Young and Lewis

Updated: 9:47pm, January 1

The Gators and Coach Will Muschamp have talked about how practices for the Gator Bowl were some of their most physical all season.

They weren’t kidding. Assistant coaches Bryant Young and Derek Lewis can attest to that after some jawing by Lewis prompted Young to come out of retirement briefly.

Gators assistant Bryant Young

At one of the practices in Gainesville prior to the team’s departure for Jacksonville, Lewis and Young did something they haven’t done in a few years. They put on pads and a helmet and went head-to-head.

“The coaches, we played a little bit,’’ Young said. “We had a little bit of braggart going back and forth.’’

A few minutes around Young and Lewis will tell you who was doing most of the talking. When Lewis kept talking about being able to push Young off the line a yard or two, it was on.

“He threw on 82 and I threw on 97 and we had helmets and shoulder pads on,’’ said Young, who turns 40 later this month. “Both of us realized, ‘What are we doing?’ Thank God nobody got hurt. We had some pretty tough physical practices and it was kind of way to get juiced up before we got started and even got the coaches going a little bit.’’

The 34-year-old Lewis and Young both played in the NFL and still look the part. A tight end, Lewis spent time with the Rams and was a member of their 1999 team that won the Super Bowl. Young spent 14 years with the 49ers and is considered one of the best defensive tackles of his generation.

With the holidays arriving and the Gator Bowl still a couple of weeks away, the coaching staff was looking for a way to catch the players’ attention. Lewis and Young decided they would go head-to-head to show the players proper technique.

(CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO, WHICH ALSO INCLUDES RECEIVERS COACH AUBREY HILL WORKING AGAINST DEFENSIVE BACKS COACH TRAVARIS ROBINSON).

Lewis lined up on offense and Young on defense in the one-on-one drill.

“It was all in fun,’’ said Young, who had not strapped on a helmet and pads since his final NFL game 2007. “The guys got a get a kick out of it.’’

There was also a serious message involved.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously at times,’’ Young said. “Coach Lewis played a little bit and I played a little bit, so we still think we’ve got it a little bit. There is a time to be serious about what we do and there is a time to have a little fun at it.

“We just thought it was a great chance to go out and work a little technique in front of the guys and show them how it is done. It was about low-man wins and who gets his hands inside and leverages the best.’’

The modest Young didn’t say who won, but if you want to see the video for yourself click on this link.

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