The Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame carries on the tradition

By Anthony Richards

The Class of 2022 of the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame was inducted during a ceremony October 28 at the East Club at TIAA Bank Field.

Each year, two former players or coaches from both schools are inducted and recognized for their play throughout their football careers, and it has become a tradition and part of the celebrations the day before the teams duel in their annual rivalry showdown in Jacksonville.

Fans from both teams were in attendance to see Trey Bruton and Andre “Bubba” Caldwell from Florida included, with John Little and Champ Bailey representing Georgia.

“You never expect that and it’s not why you play the game, but at the same time it’s a great honor because there have been so many incredible players that have played this game over the years,” Burton said.

Coming full circle for Burton, he grew up a die-hard Gators fan and now has children of his own, whom he welcomed the day after he was inducted into the Florida-Georgia Hall of Fame.

“I grew up orange and blue, and now I’m just happy that my kids can be here and be a part of it,” Burton said.

He also had a memorable career in the NFL, throwing the touchdown pass as part of the now-famous “Philly Special” game that helped the Philadelphia Eagles win Super Bowl 52 in 2018.

John Little was also raised in Florida but chose Georgia which gave him a unique perspective on the rivalry.

“I always felt like there was just more to the Georgia-Florida game,” Little said. “I remember wanting to hit her so bad. It was treated like a bowl game by both students and fans. It was ‘College Gameday’ (weekly kickoff show on ESPN) before ‘College Gameday’.”

Caldwell couldn’t contain his emotions during his acceptance speech, and his vibrations of pure excitement echoed throughout the room.

“This is big and I’m here,” Caldwell chuckled. “I made it baby. This is seriously the greatest rivalry in all of college football.”

He thanked his older brother Reche Caldwell, who also played wide receiver at the University of Florida before Andre came on campus, for helping pave the path he was to follow.

“He’s the reason I’m an alligator,” Caldwell said. “I am so proud to have carried on this legacy.”

Champ Bailey has been adjusting to being inducted into the Hall of Fame in recent years as he is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame after a career in the NFL spanning more than a decade.

He was raised in Folkston, Georgia, whose proximity to the Florida state line divided the town about 50/50 when it came to supporting the Bulldogs or the Gators.

However, it was his mother’s passion for the Dawgs that also fueled his love for them.

He remembered Steve Spurrier coming into his living room to recruit him and later playing for Spurrier and having many Gator teammates over the years in the NFL.

“With all these Florida ties, you can bet I’m a Gator hater,” Bailey giggled as his comment sparked multiple barks and bites from Bulldog and Gator fans attending the ceremony, and the rivalry flared up got the point.