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Tuesday July 31, 2012Pease's African Adventure an Unforgettable Prelude to Start of First Season at UF

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Brent Pease says the question never came up.

“No,’’ he said with a sly grin. “No.”

Pease hears the question regularly here in the town he and his family have now lived for sixth months since moving from Boise, Idaho. People want to know, so they ask.

Who’s going to be the Gators’ starting quarterback? Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett?

But the familiar query disappeared for a large portion of July for Pease.

For two weeks Pease lived what probably felt like an imaginary life for an offensive coordinator of a big-time program. He was free from questions about a quarterback battle or third-down strategy or how the Gators are going to score more points with him in charge.

The most important question some nights for Pease was how many games of Cribbage he and his 15-year-old son Karsten would play that evening in their room.

There was no TV to watch. No Internet to connect to. No cell phone to use. They couldn’t even drink the water unless it was bottled.

The Pease family spent much of the month in Africa, traveling deep into the Serengeti for an adventure of a lifetime. They visited Tarangire National Park, stood in amazement of Ngorongoro Crater -- referred to by admirers as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” -- and marveled at all the different animals and birds.

They drove past huge elephants and watched as zebras walked right up to them as the dog next door might do.

Pease watched the lions extremely close whenever the family’s safari van passed a group of them. He had never seen them in the wild.

“We were probably from here to the wall,’’ Pease said, pointing toward his office wall. “They were just laying there.”

The trip was an adventure Pease’s wife, Paula, had envisioned for several years. She had it all planned a year ago but Pease put it off when he was promoted to offensive coordinator at Boise State.

Paula and 17-year-old daughter Halle were disappointed but understood. The promotion at Boise was a big one for Pease. Still, Paula had a plan.

She continued to research different safari adventures and what precautions they would have to take and other unique factors that go into taking such a trip like the need to take malaria pills.

“It was something I had on my bucket list for a long time,’’ Paula said. “It’s something I really wanted to take the whole family on and do it before the kids graduated and went their separate ways.”

Once Pease was hired by Florida head coach Will Muschamp and the family relocated to Gainesville, Paula’s plan moved toward reality. It would also serve as a nice getaway following a busy year and before Florida started fall camp.

“When I got here I couldn’t push it back another year,’’ Pease quipped.

The family flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam on July 9, and then on to Kilimanjaro International Airport in northern Tanzania. They spent the first day in the city of Arusha, checking out shops and trying to take in as much as the city’s culture as possible.

From there they joined a 13-person safari group that included a cross country coach, a minister, a teacher and at least one offensive coordinator. They saw memorable places like Lake Manyara and stayed in modest lodges surrounded by animals you generally only see at the zoo or on the Discovery Channel.

One of Pease’s favorite stops was visiting an African Messiah Tribe and interacting with the kids. The help make friends, Pease carried along several of the orange-and-blue ‘Gator Grind’ bracelets the Gators wear.

Soon Pease found himself trying to explain the American version of football to some of the tribal members. As they made their way to other regions of the country Pease found himself enjoying the trip more than he expected.

“My daughter was totally into it,’’ he said. “My son was kind of like me at first. We were just kind there to have a good time. But we got into it and appreciated it and understood it a lot more.”

Pease was especially intrigued by visiting where scientists believe the human ancestor Homo erectus may have evolved from. Paula was thrilled that the family vacation she spent more than a year coordinating was going so well.

A week after returning home part of Paula remained in Africa with some of the people they met and their new friends they made in the safari group. Those kids in the Messiah Tribe are hard to forget.

“To see their faces light up when Brent gave away those ‘Gator Grind’ bracelets, it was really neat,’’ she said. “It was kind of a primitive village we went to. They danced for us and we went through a little nursery school. Amazingly many of those of people knew English. You could communicate with them.”

While the Peases were thousands of miles from Gainesville, they bumped into someone with UF connections at a lodge in the middle of the Serengeti. Dressed in Gator T-shirts and hats as they took a family picture one night, an older gentleman with his grandkids came over at dinner and asked them about their UF connections.

The man was Bob Murphy, a standout golfer for the Gators in the 1960s who later played on the PGA Tour and currently plays on the Champions Tour.

“That was pretty cool,’’ Pease said. “You don’t expect that.”

A family vacation usually meant going to visit family and doing some fishing for most of Pease’s 20-year coaching career. The trip to Africa was unlike anything the family had ever done.

Back in his office a few days later, Pease was back at his computer and focused on his first season in The Swamp. He’s ready.

But for two weeks it was nice to live in another world for a change.

“I think I have a greater appreciate here of the luxuries we have,’’ Pease said.

“It was a great time,’’ Paula added. “There was no TV. There were no telephones. Brent had real limited ability to communicate or have his own. We took advantage of that.”

Questions about the Gators’ starting quarterback could wait.


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