The Florida Gators football team peeled back the curtain in HBO’s debut of “24/7 College Football” on Wednesday. The shows concept mimics that of HBO’s “Hard Knocks”, which follows one team through the rigors of NFL training camp in a documentary format.
In this one-hour series premiere, HBO had full access to the program just moments after their victory over the Tennessee Volunteers and detailed a week that was culminated by a 38-0 shutout of Towson. In that short period of time, cameras were able to capture all the hard work, dedication, emotion, passion and pride that makes being a college football player or coach, much less a Gator, so special.
Franks undergoes surgery
Cameras followed as Felipe Franks, Florida’s injured redshirt junior quarterback, showed up for surgery on his dislocated right ankle Monday morning. On the way, Franks’ emotions and nerves began to get the best of him. This was Franks’ first surgery of any kind. It was also, according to him, the first football related injury of his career.
Reports of the surgery’s success were delivered to head coach Dan Mullen via a phone call from his wife, Megan. During the call, Megan expressed her desire cook Felipe a meal upon his return home. In a stark reminder of the trivial nature that exists between student-athletes and NCAA violations, Megan assured Dan she even checked with compliance to make sure there were no issues providing the meal. Upon returning home, Franks was met by family, friends and teammates. He displayed an outpouring of emotion even he was shy to show to cameras.
As the week progressed, game preparation intensified on the practice field, in meeting rooms and the weight room. Florida’s Strength and Conditioning coach, Nick Savage, provided the intensity from the moment players entered the facilities, until they left practice at the end of each day. Savage creates ways to institute healthy competition among the players, including participating as units in simple games typically reserved for fans at tailgates on game days.
“They’re going to give you what you give them. If I’m tired and lazy, that’s what they’re going to give me. If I’m up, loud and intense, that’s what I’m going to get from them in return.” Savage told HBO in his hoarse, deep voice.
A legendary cameo
Gator legend and program ambassador, Steve Spurrier, made a cameo appearance when he peeked into a meeting room where Mullen stood in front of a white board designing plays. “Ya’ll got that play where, the Vikings hit it yesterday, the quarterback rolls out and it’s that throwback?” Spurrier said, before grabbing a pen and going to work on the board himself. Mullen, who said he wears a visor during games because of Spurrier, was receptive to the idea. After all, it was Spurrier whom Mullen used to watch peruse the sidelines of the Swamp when he was a young aspiring coach. Mullen told cameras he reminds himself all the time what sidelines he’s walking and whose old office is now his own.
Perhaps one of the greatest traditions Mullen is bringing to the Gators follows the week’s final practice on Thursday. “Family time”, where wives and children of the coaching staff attend practice and get to spend quality time with their husbands and fathers.
“It’s important for our guys to see us being fathers. To see us spend time with our families.” Mullen added.
Prior to Saturday’s kickoff against Towson, cameras captured Mullen in the locker room hunched in a chair hovering over his phone. Upstairs in the sky box, Megan’s phone buzzes.
“It says, ‘Love you guys so much, can’t wait to spend fun time with the family.” Megan told HBO. “Fifteen years, he’s never missed (a text).”
HBO’s “24/7 College Football” will also feature Arizona State, Penn State and Washington State in upcoming episodes.