GAINESVILLE — Patrons of the 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Gainesville were treated to an unusual sight this summer.
There, tucked away behind the counter and meticulously cutting away at the day's brisket, was a familiar face — UF starting quarterback Jeff Driskel. You can then understand the stares, the double-takes and even the occasional request for cell phone photos. It's not every day that you find yourself face-to-face with one of the Southeastern Conference's top quarterbacks toiling away at a nine-to-five job like you and me.
After the initial surprise wore off, that's when the questions began.
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"'What are you working here for?,'" Driskel recalled a customer asking. "One person asked, 'Can I get a brisket sandwich with a side of a national championship?'"
Driskel's reasoning for the job was simple, "I needed some cash."
Turns out, Driskel is just like every other struggling college student looking to make a buck these days. And despite what you may think, some college athletes don't have everything given to them on a silver platter.
That's how Driskel found himself smelling of pulled pork most days this summer.
When he wasn't participating in offseason workouts and learning a new system under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper - his third coordinator in the past four seasons - there he was on the 4 Rivers line trying not to make a costly mistake while slicing brisket.
"I know more than anybody that I didn't want to cut my fingers off," Driskel joked.
Perhaps there's a bit of irony that during the same summer he was learning the finer points of smoked meat, the NCAA was going through its own monumental changes that could directly impact the welfare of athletes like Driskel.
It's a controversial change in rules that has been slowed by smaller conferences protesting the expense, but it is on track to be approved after major NCAA governance were approved this summer.
Then there was the decision by a federal judge in the Ed O'Bannon case against the NCAA. The judge ruled the NCAA couldn't set limits on the revenue generated by football and men's basketball players, including their "names, images, and likenesses in addition to a full grant-in-aid." The ruling states that athletes could get a deferred payment up to $5,000 per eligible season at the end of their collegiate careers.
The NCAA plans to appeal the ruling and while it's not yet clear how that would impact someone like Driskel, it could help other college athletes.
Regardless of what changes are on the horizon for college programs, Driskel said he learned a lot from his summer job.
"I have had some great experiences and I met a lot of people," he added. "It was a really good summer, and I was fortunate."
And if this whole football thing doesn't work out?
"There is an outstanding carver position for me. I got pretty good at it," Driskel joked.
FSU tops AP top 25 poll
Florida State earned the top spot in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday. The Seminoles received 1,496 points and 57 first-place votes to nab the top spot. Alabama, Oregon , Oklahoma all received first-place votes and rounded out the top 5 with Ohio State. UCF found itself just outside of the top 25 listed unofficially at No. 26 after receiving 94 points, while the Florida Gators were right behind the Knights with 87 points.
ESPN ready for some football
The college football season is less than two weeks away and ESPN is celebrating the occasion by reminding viewers the network will air 55 games in six days leading off with a FCS opener featuring Sam Houston State playing at Eastern Washington on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., on ESPN. The network will follow that up with Abilene Christian at Georgia State on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. on ESPNU. Then Texas A&M open the season at South Carolina on Aug. 28 at 6 p.m. on the new SEC Network. UCF will kick off the network's coverage Aug. 30 against Penn State in Ireland at 8:30 a.m. on ESPN2. Florida's opener against Idaho will kick off at 7 p.m. on ESPNU and FSU takes on Oklahoma State at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas at 8 p.m. on ABC.
HBO follows up on former USF player
HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel reconnects with former University of South Florida football player Nick Schuyler. Schuyler and three of his friends were involved in a boating accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 that claimed the lives of three people, including Oakland Raiders linebacker Marquis Cooper, NFL defensive lineman Corey Smith and former USF teammate Will Bleakley. Schuyler was the only survivor and five years later, he's picked up the pieces of his life and is one of the top competitors in the fitness craze, CrossFit. The show airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
Florida will be one of the SEC programs taking part in this year's SEC/Big 12 Challenge — the annual series between some of the top men's basketball program's in the nation. The series tips off on Dec. 3 with Auburn and new coach Bruce Pearl taking on Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, at 9 p.m. on the SEC Network. The highlight of the four-day event is Friday's action, with Texas traveling to Lexington to take on Kentucky at 7 p.m. followed by the Gators on the road to take on Kansas at 9 p.m. Both games are on ESPN.
Meanwhile, Florida State kicks off this season's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, with the Seminoles hosting Nebraska on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Other highlights from the three-day event feature No. 21 Syracuse at No. 24 Michigan on Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN and No. 2 Duke traveling to Madison to take on No. 4 Wisconsin on Dec. 3 at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN.