NFL Articles
College Articles
PSH Countdown
The NFL season kicks off...
Sponsored Links
Most Read Articles


2008 Predictions

Quarterback Rating System 2008

Superbowl Winners and losers History

Potential Rule Changes

Chris Leak's Gator Legacy

2007 NFL Draft: Ranking the QB's

The NFL Bye-Week System Is Broken. Here Is How To Fix It.

Gator-Bait: Week 3

Gator Bait: Season Preview

Gator-Bait: Week 15
Sponsored Links
By GatorsRock
Published: February 6, 2007
Print    Email

<img src="" height="75" width="250">

Chris Leakís Florida Gator Legacy

Chris Leak and the Florida Gators were two of the most highly talked about things in the media. They were both going in opposite directions. Florida had just lost coaching legend Steve Spurrier a year earlier and hired Ron Zook who went 8-5 with a loss in the Outback Bowl his first year as head coach. Florida was losing their superstar QB Rex Grossman as a junior to the NFL draft. Chris Leak on the other hand was one of the most highly recruited players in the nation. Leak began his collegiate search as one of the best HS QBís in history. He led a highly successful Independence High team to two North Carolina state titles his junior and senior years. In these two years he combined for 9,885 yards and 108 TD passes including over 5000 yards and 61 TDís in his senior season.

Chris Leak was listed as the #3 overall QB according to recruiting expert Scout. He was listed behind John David Booty, who committed to USC and Kyle Wright, who committed to Miami(FL). He was ahead of guys such as LSUís JaMarcus Russell, Notre Dameís Brady Quinn, Oregonís Dennis Dixon, and Kentuckyís Andre Woodson. Leak was recruited heavily by Florida, Tennessee, Florida State, Iowa, Texas and USC. He had received offers from all of them, but Tennessee. His brother CJ was recruited as a QB to Tennessee, but was getting misused, so Chris knocked them off the list early in the process. After taking visits to all five schools with Florida being his first visit and Iowa being his last visit, he narrowed his search down to three teams: Iowa, Florida, and Florida State.

He was invited to play at the Army All-American game that showcases the best high school athletes. It was a TV broadcast and a lot of people were starting to follow recruiting very closely and were watching on TV. Chris Leak and Reggie Bush decided at halftime that they were going to announce which school they were planning on attending. That set the stage, there were many Hawkeyes, Gators, and Seminole fans that were eagerly awaiting where this standout would go. He decided to go to Ron Zook and the University of Florida, despite the Gators already having a verbal from the 7th rated QB Justin Midgett. "My decision really came down to a matter of trust," Leak said. "Coach Zook made a commitment to me and my future so I'm going to trust him with that future."

After he said that, he promised that he would win at least one national title at UF and he said he wouldnít get a girlfriend until he did it. Then he became the biggest recruiting weapon for Ron Zook as Leak called on, "the best players in the country to join him at Florida and win a national championship." "There are a couple top players that have come up to me this week and told me wherever I go, they want to come with me," Leak said. "And that's an honor. That's how you build national championships." He followed through on his word as the Gators received commitments from 4 star CB Dee Webb, 5 star WRís Chad Jackson and Andre Caldwell, 5 star LB Earl Everett, 4 star defensive lineman Jarvis Moss, Marcus Thomas, and Joe Cohen, and lastly 4 star safety Reggie Nelson. Leak helped the Gators get the fourth rated class.

He entered his freshman year with plenty of hype and a lot of Gator fans wanted him to start right away to see what he can do. He was competing with redshirt freshman 5 star Gavin Dickey, sophomore Ingle Martin, and fellow true freshman Justin Midgett. Leak ended up winning the backup job behind Ingle Martin. In the first 4 games in a backup role seeing some action Leak threw for two TDís and two INTís while completing 70% of his passes in three out of the four games. After disappointing losses in which Ingle Martin struggled to Miami(FL) on the road and at home against Tennessee in which Chris Leak got some reps, Ron Zook decided to give the freshman phenom the starting job when the Gators visited Kentucky. Leak had a tough time in his debut, but he ended up leaving Kentucky with a 24-21 win. He finished 20-35 268 yards two TDís, two INTís, and getting sacked three times. He then got outdueled by Mississippiís Eli Manning in Mississippi while throwing three interceptions. The Gators were struggling losing three out of their previous five games and were going up against one of the top teams in the nation and eventual National Champion LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge. Chris Leak was on the top of his game and made the biggest upset of the year as he completed 18 out of 30 passes for 239 yards with 2 TDís and 0 INTís despite getting sacked six times in a 19-7 victory. From then on, Leak settled down and went on to win his next four games before losing on questionable refereeing to Chris Rix and the Florida State Seminoles. The Gators got an Outback Bowl bid and got hammered by Iowa 37-17. All in all, Leak went 6-3 as a starter with 2435 yards on 59.4% completion percentage and 16 TDís compared to 11 INTís.

Between his freshman and sophomore years, Ron Zook decided to fire offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher to bring in the master of bubble screens Larry Fedora. After a promising freshman year by Leak, the hype around Gainesville had reached the high in the Zook administration. Leak was a genuine Heisman candidate as a sophomore. This was the do or die year for Ron Zook. Chris Leak didnít disappoint by playing very good in the first loss in a ruckus Neyland Stadium after a questionable call on Dallas Baker gave the Volunteers a chance to win the game. After that, the Gators lost to LSU at home after their defense choked the game away and two weeks later a trip to Starkville, Mississippi ended Ron Zookís coaching tenure at the University of Florida. Mississippi State hadnít won a game in SEC play yet and they succeeded in owning Floridaís defense on the ground for a 38-31 victory. The day after the game, Ron Zook was fired after he completed the season. That entire week was turmoil and Georgia was able to beat the Gators for the 2nd time in the previous 15 tries. The rest of the season was plagued by the Gators trying to win enough games to become bowl eligible. They needed to win two out of their remaining three to get to six wins. Leak made a statement in the following two games by winning @ Vandy and against South Carolina at home. He combined for 626 yards with 8 TDís and 3 INTís, including a career high six TDís against South Carolina. Then the Gators who were heavy underdogs had to visit Doak Campbell stadium to face the #8 team in the country, Florida State. Florida hadnít won their in the last twenty years. It was on a night where Florida State honored Bobby Bowden by dedicating the field to him. Despite a very sloppy game, Leak and the Gators were able to win on a Jarvis Herring INT on 4th down with eight seconds left with Florida State inside the red zone. The team carried Ron Zook off the field in his final game. Doak Campbell stadium will always be known as Ron Zook field by Gator fans. After that game, the coaching search was on. The hot coaching prospect was Urban Meyer, but he was rumored to go to Notre Dame and his style of offense did not fit Leak. The Gators made their first run at trying to bring back the original legend Steve Spurrier. That failed as Spurrier decided to go to South Carolina. In an unexpected turn of events, Urban Meyer decided to spurn his ďdream jobĒ at Notre Dame to go coach Florida. Defensive coach Charlie Strong was the interim coach for the bowl whooping that Miami(FL) gave Florida.

Chris Leak was again a Heisman candidate to start out the 05 campaign. Urban Meyerís main goal was to get the team to be more like a team and to get the shy reserved Leak to become more of a leader. Leak would just spend his evenings watching film and wasnít really too close to any of his teammates. Another thing that Urban Meyer was trying to instill on Leak was for him to make his decisions and call audibles. During the Zook years, the offensive coordinator would relay any audibles to him through his helmet. Meyer wanted Leak to read defenses for himself. The season started off on a good note winning the first four games of the season including a 16-7 win over Tennessee in Meyerís first big game. Leak combined for 9 TDís and 0 INTís in that span. Then injuries started to pile up for the WRís and the Gators went to Alabama to face a veteran team. Bama got loads of pressure on Leak and he got rattled. He hurt his shoulder early in the game as the Gators got trampled 31-3. Then Leak still fought through the injury and threw two picks in a win over Mississippi State. In a visit to LSU, Leak was getting no time and had one of his worst outings as a Gator. He completed only 11 out of 30 passes for only 107 yards. The Gators lost, despite winning the turnover battle by 5. After beating Georgia the Gators still had a chance to win the SEC East and barely survived a nail biter against Vanderbilt. With a Georgia loss to Auburn earlier in the day, the Gators knew all they needed to do was to beat Spurrierís new team and they will be SEC East champions. Leak again got harassed all game and despite a valiant effort the Gators fell short. Leak would end another disappointing regular season with a impressive 34-7 win against Florida State. This marked only the 4th time in school history that a Gator team beat itís three biggest rivals: Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida State in the same season. Then came the bowl game. The Gators had been embarrassed in the last three bowl games under Ron Zook. Leak played a heck of a game completing 25-40 passes for 278 yards and 2 TDís with 0 INTís in a win over Iowa. Urban Meyer completed his first season at 9-3. In his previous two stops, Meyer has made a dramatic turn around in his second year. Could he do it again?

Meyer didnít disappoint bringing in the second best recruiting class in the nation headlined by star QB Tim Tebow who seems to be the perfect fit for Meyerís system and WR Percy Harvin. The class was just mere points behind Southern California for the best class. Tim Tebow was the third rated QB prospect and was an early entree. He enrolled to Florida for spring semester. Just like when Leak started as a highly rated recruit, some fans were calling for Tebow to start. Over the spring with Tebow following him around and learning from him, they hit it off good. They both liked what each other brought to the table. Leak learned as much from Tebow as Tebow did from Leak. Leak became more open and more of a vocal leader. When someone would make a mistake Leak would make sure to run over to them and either get in their face or encourage them. In the past, Leak would just walk over to the sideline and get the next play. The entire spring Meyer was talking about how much Leak was maturing as a player. The spring game came and most of the starters didnít play. Tebow had the majority of the weapons and outplayed Leak to start even more controversy at QB. Leak continued to show his maturity and new found leadership over the summer during 2 a days and into the season. Before two a days started Leakís father, Curtis Leak, said that he thinks that Leak isnít known as one of the greatest QBís in Gator history already because Chris is black. Leak was in striking distance at rewriting the majority of the record book.

Leak again started the season as a Heisman front runner. He did not disappoint in the first two games as the Gators demolished Southern Miss and UCF. Tebow got some snaps as well as more of a rushing QB. Then the Tennessee game came. Leak and the Gators fell behind 17-7 before Leak finished with two more TD passes including the game winner to Dallas Baker for the Gators to win 21-20. The final drive was sparked on a crucial 4th down and 1 that Tebow converted by running. The Kentucky game was next. Leak started out with a bang with a double reverse flea flicker to Jemalle Cornelius, but then got slow. He only completed 57% of his passes. Urban Meyer decided to bring Tim Tebow in mid drive and he had 2 nice runs. Then Meyer decided to put Leak back in the game in the red zone and take Tebow out. That is when the majority of the 90,000 Gator fans in attendance started to boo. After the game Chris Leak said he didnít even realize it and it wasnít that big of a deal, but this was where the fans started to really turn on him. He had made a bad decision every game with 1 pick every game. Everything went fine for the next game against Alabama and then the LSU game came. Leak helped drive the Gators down the field, but then Meyer would take Leak out and put Tebow in when the Gators got down to the red zone. Tebow ended up with all three of the Gators TDís(2 passing and 1 rushing). ESPN started to spin the Gator QB situation as a controversy.

The Auburn game was next and after a very good first half where the Gators put up 17 points, trouble started to occur in the second half. After a dropped punt by Eric Wilbur resulted into seven points to give Auburn the lead, Leak went back to business just needing to get into FG range. He succeeded in making a nice long drive to get down to the 8 yard line. It was 3rd and 3 and Leak dropped back to pass, pump faked twice before seemingly getting the ball out of his hands and batted down by the Auburn defensive lineman. The Auburn player picked it up and ran it as a fumble. After review it was determined that the play stood and it was a fumble. The Gators defense came up big getting a stop and giving Leak one last chance. His first pass, he pump faked again seemingly unsure of what to do with the ball before he saw a streaking Andre Caldwell wide open down the field. He short armed it and threw it way short and it was picked off by Auburn and Auburn won the game after a Leak fumble on a lateral ended the game. Leak was devastated, but during the interview he was calm and collected. Some Gator fans were complaining about his demeanor after the game, saying that he wasnít pissed off that they lost. The Tebow bandwagon hit a new high after this game.

The rest of the regular season ended in close calls for the Gators. The Gators went up 21-0 early and let the Bulldogs score the last 14 points to finish 21-14. Then at the Vandy game, the Gators took a 25-6 lead before Vandy scored the last 13 points to only win 25-19. Jarvis Moss barely got a hand on a FG to block the third kick of the game to get past the ghost of Spurrier and his Gamecocks 17-16. Tebow ran in the game leading TD after Leak drove them down the field. After the game Spurrier said ďMaybe it is just the Year of the GatorĒ. After annihilating Division 1-AA foe Western Carolina, the Gators headed to Tallahassee. Leak was trying to become the first Gator to ever win two games at Doak Campbell stadium and the Gators were heavily favored. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead at halftime, but the Seminoles came back quickly to tie it up 14-14. Meyer decided that he had to trust his senior on the final drive and demanded Dan Mullen make Leak throw it every play. Leak went 7-8 on the drive with 1 run that resulted in a game winning 25 yard TD pass to Dallas Baker.

The SEC Championship came and the Gators ended up getting matched up against the ground attack of Arkansas. Leak struggled throughout the game throwing 2 INTís including one for a Razorback TD. The Gators came out sloppy in the 2nd half holding a 17-7 halftime lead. At halftime they realized that USC lost to UCLA and that the 2nd spot in the National Championship opened up. They came out sluggish to start the second half and Arkansas scored 14 quick points. After that Leak came alive and continued to move the Gators down field with relative ease. Gators held on 38-28 to win an SEC championship. The next day the BCS voters voted the Gators to go to the National Championship instead of Michigan to face Ohio State. There was a lot of criticism about the Gators bid and the criticism continued. No one gave Chris Leak and the Gators any chance at all against Ohio State. Leak was going up against Heisman winner Troy Smith in the head to head QB matchup and no one gave Leak a chance to beat Smith. Leak was always the talk in the biggest key for the Gators to win. He would have to play a mistake free football game.

After 37 days of hard work and preparation the day finally arrived. This was the game that would decide Leakís legacy as a Gator. The Gators immediately gave up the opening kickoff return for a TD and Leak was immediately put in a situation where he had to come from behind. He orchestrated a Gator offense that got a positive gain for itís first 16 plays. He also completed his first nine passes before throwing one away. He came out firing and had one of the best games in his collegiate career. Whenever the Buckeyes seemed to start to sway the momentum, Leak would come right back and take all the momentum. He finished 25/36 213 yards 1 TD and ZERO turnovers and that was good enough to get the MVP honors in the Gators 41-14 victory. In the championship celebration pep rally former Gator Danny Wuerffel came and presented Leak with the MVP award. Wuerffel is the only other Gator QB to win a National Championship.

When Leak came to Florida, he promised that he would win at least one national title in his time here and he delivered No other QB in Florida history has had to go through what Leak has had to. He had to fight to get the starting spot his freshman year, then had a coaching change before his junior season, then having 3 different offensive coordinators in his first three years, then consider that the one system that stayed was one that doesnít fit him at all, then consider the ďQB controversyĒ with fellow phenom Tim Tebow, and not to mention getting booed by his home fans and not getting the support that he should have. He stayed strong through all of it and didnít complain one bit. He was very classy and thank everyone for their support. This ending couldnít have happened to a better player/person.

Leak finished his Gator career with a Gator record 11,213 yards, 88 TDís(2nd behind Wuerffel) and the lowest INT % of any QB in Gator history. He also finished with 1 SEC title and 1 National title. Here is his resume against the Gator rivalsÖ

2-1 against Tennessee(including a win at Neyland and that questionable call on Dallas Baker was the one loss)
2-2 against LSU(including a win against the best team in the nation as a freshman in Baton Rouge)
3-1 against South Carolina (1 win at South Carolina)
3-1 against Georgia(only loss was the week after Zook got fired and it was a crazy week)
3-1 against Florida State(2-0 at Doak Campbell stadium-don't forget that Spurrier NEVER won as a coach at Doak) The one loss was "The Swindle in the Swamp"
3-0 against Arkansas
1-0 in the SEC championship
1-0 in BCS bowls

After all the up and downs Leak had in his four years starting at QB for the Florida Gators he will always be remembered as a champion and one of the greatest Gator QBís ever to grace the Swamp.

Discuss this article in the forums!

View Comments (0)