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Former Gators All-American Jevon Kearse was a quarterback's worst nightmare.

Tuesday November 5, 2013Catching Up with Jevon Kearse ...

Former Gators All-American Jevon Kearse was a quarterback's worst nightmare.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – They still call him “The Freak.” And it’s easy to see why.

Jevon Kearse no longer plays in the NFL but the athletic build and confident stroll remain intact for the former UF All-American.

Former Georgia offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb, who played against Kearse in college, first remembers seeing "The Freak" in the cafeteria prior to a Florida-Georgia high school all-star game they both played in.

"Who is that guy?'' Stinchcomb recalled. "There is no way that guy is playing in this game."

A coach tapped Stinchcomb on the shoulder.

"Yeah, he's playing, and he's a free safety."

Stinchcomb took a deep gulp like many offensive linemen who squared off against Kearse.

Kearse was in Jacksonville over the weekend to attend the Florida-Georgia game and take his permanent place in the game’s Hall of Fame.

GatorZone.com caught up with Kearse for his induction into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame on Friday afternoon:

Age: 37

Home: Pompano Beach, Fla.

Occupation: Retired from the NFL in 2009 after 11 seasons split between the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles

Years at UF: 1995-98

Position as player: DE/OLB

Playing height/weight: 6-4, 265 pounds

NFL debut: Sept. 12, 1999

Jevon Kearse

Photo: Kearse being introduced at Saturday’s game. To his right is Lindy Infante.

What’s this honor mean to you? “It really is an honor. I thought somebody was playing with me [at first]. I’m like, ‘you sure, already?’ And they are like, ‘yeah, we need you in Jacksonville.’ Once they sent me the paperwork I knew it was for real. I just want to thank everyone who voted for me. I really like the honor, really appreciate it.”

You almost didn’t come to UF? “I almost signed with Notre Dame. That Florida thing almost didn’t happen. But I took a visit and then my cousin was going to school there at the time, Johnnie Church. He was kind of like my brother there. The rest of that is just history.”

Earliest memory as a UF player? “I got to the University of Florida as a free safety. A free safety? yeah, right. I think I only played free safety just the first practice. They moved me to the outside linebacker position and it worked out pretty good. I would especially like to thank Steve Spurrier. I remember him telling our defensive coordinator, ‘If No. 42 is not on the field on defense, I’m going to snatch him and put him on offense.’ I think after he said that, that is when they made me a starter.”

What do you remember from time at North Fort Myers High? “I just know game day. I remember wearing that jersey to school and I know the pep rally. We were for real about it. We would all just hang together the whole day at school and go eat together and then go to the game and just have fun.”

What’s life like now? “I still do a lot of appearances for the NFL. I’m one of the guys that travel around and do a lot of corporate events, the combine, the draft, Super Bowl, Pro Bowl. That right there keeps me moving and keeps me kind of active. I’ve been retired for four years now, so now I’m getting kind of antsy. I need something to do.”

What do you think is next for you? “I don’t know if it’s going to be along the rim of coaching or maybe just training these kids – getting them ready to go to college or getting them ready to go to the pros. I still train four days a week. I’m still active. I took three years off now I’m ready to get back to it and start doing some giving back.”

Greatest memory with the Gators? “My No. 1 memory would be winning that national title back in ’96. We ended up losing that last game to Florida State and that kind of hurt our chances, but then three miraculous things happened. It was meant for us to win it. Fifty-two to 20, I think we showed that we deserved to be back in that game.”

Do you miss the game? “I would say I miss the games, but not that in-between stuff. I don’t miss the politics that come along with it. I don’t miss all the practices and the long meeting times. I just miss playing in the games, because that’s the fun part. But you’ve got to do the whole gamut to be successful. My body is feeling good, so my body doesn’t miss it, not even a little bit. It just feels good to be healthy, to jump out of bed and feel good.”

Did you ever consider a potential coaching career as a player? “No, that’s just more now. I still have a lot of football in my system. I played for a lot of years. I have a lot of knowledge of the game. I feel that I can give a lot of knowledge about this game and help some kid become not just a better football player, but a better man.”

 

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