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November 21, 2010

Walk-on Beemer scores for UF

Until Saturday, you probably had never heard of him.

You hadn't checked to see how many recruiting stars he had, what his draft projection was or how many sacks he had.

If, by chance, you scanned a depth chart, you certainly didn't see his name.

He wasn't a big-time recruit, doesn't have the ideal measurables and won't be playing on Sundays -- unless he joins a flag football league.

When he crossed the goal-line with 3:18 left in Florida's 48-10 thumping of Appalachian State on Saturday, some of you likely thought to yourself, "Who the heck is Gary Beemer?"

In his own words, he's just a guy "who gives them everything I have."

Who is them?

His teammates. His coaches. His family. The Gator Nation. You. Me. Anyone who loves college football and appreciates sacrifice.

Gary Beemer, after all, embodies everything his sport is supposed to stand for.

For a moment, let's backtrack.

In high school, Beemer played at Newsome, which is located in a quiet Tampa suburb. As a senior, he was team captain, president of the National Honor Society and editor of his school newspaper.

Here's what he was not: A highly touted player.

He was, however, smart enough to gain acceptance into Florida and enrolled in August of 2006. In the spring of 2008, he walked on to the football team.

During the three seasons that followed, Beemer got his brains bashed in.

While we rarely saw him on Saturdays, Monday thru Friday the 5-foot-11, 263-pound defensive tackle was a five-star scout-teamer.

"He works harder than anybody on the team," Gator center Mike Pouncey said. "He gave his life to this program, too. He doesn't get all the fame, all the glory. He's a guy that works hard to give the defense a great look in practice every day. He's a special guy to us. We love him like a brother."

In 2008, Beemer played in one game.

A year later, he saw action in two games.

This season, though, Beemer, who is working on a master's degree and wants to become a coach, had yet to see the field until Saturday, probably because Florida hadn't rolled too many opponents.

Before the game, he was honored with his fellow seniors.

During it, he experienced the moment of a lifetime when head coach Urban Meyer decided it was time to give something back to the player who had given so much to the program.

"I grabbed him in the third quarter and said if we get close enough we'd like to hand him the ball," Meyer recalled.

Late in the final period, it finally happened.

Beemer, who has been a lineman his entire football career, was put in the backfield with Florida at the Appalachian State 4. Then, he got the ball.
Beemer was stopped at the 1, so Florida gave it to him a second time.

Again, he came up short.

Then came try No. 3.

"I grabbed the ball … lowered my head" Beemer said.

A split second later, Beemer crossed the goal-line for six, and a slight nudge from quarterback Jordan Reed certainly didn't hurt.

"That was his touchdown," Reed later said.

Actually, it was more than that.

It was a touchdown for all Gator walk-ons, all the guys who give up their weekday afternoons so the big-name players can get all the glory come Saturday.

"Gary Beemer is one of my favorite players," Meyer said. "He's a guy that's about as unselfish as you get. Our players love him because he goes every day."

When Beemer scored, his teammates went crazy.

He was congratulated by everyone from fellow walk-ons to Ronald Powell, who perhaps might become the program's next legendary player. For a few moments, a four-loss season was merely an afterthought. And that, it seemed, felt right.

"Our team," Beemer said, "is not selfish."

After the game, Beemer, whose long blonde hair makes him hard to miss, was still, as he put it, "trying to process" what had occurred at Florida Field about an hour earlier.

"It's really overwhelming," he said.

The touchdown was the first of his life. The ball, he said, will end up on the family mantle "forever."

"When you're a kid, you dream of something like this," Beemer said.

Here's guessing the real thing was better than anything he could have imagined.











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