The Florida Gators are getting set to begin SEC play this season when they host Tennessee Saturday, but head coach Jim McElwain said the biggest concern over the past weekend was the safety of his team and their families.
A clearly somber McElwain began his press conference Wednesday morning with the hopes that those affected by Hurricane Irma made it through as best as possible. He said the storm that slammed Florida over the weekend put things into perspective.
“Our opportunity to play the ball game this weekend is something our guys are looking forward to,” said McElwain, “And yet, it’s one of those things that sometimes you’ve gotta sit back and put into perspective. I don’t think we can ever say that we’re going to get back to normal…there is no normal.”
Despite the distraction of Irma, McElwain reiterated that the Gators are excited to play and will hopefully play with passion Saturday:
“I know our guys are excited to play,” McElwain said, “And play with a little bit of passion and desire for the people of the state of Florida.”
The matchup with the Volunteers is a crucial early-season game for the Gators after the loss to Michigan in the opener. The winner will already have a leg up in the SEC East race and confidence moving forward.
The big question for Florida is “Will the team be emotionally ready to play Saturday?” McElwain spent most of the press conference answering questions about Irma and the aftermath of the storm, and one has to wonder about the mental state of the team right now.
Thankfully it sounds like the Gators and their families made it through the storm unharmed, but many are still dealing with power outages and other issues. Putting life issues aside to get mentally prepared for a big game is not always easy, but hopefully Florida will play tough on Saturday.
You can see McElwain’s full press conference here.