Anyone’s first Florida-Georgia game will be memorable. But mine? Let’s just say, it’ll be one for the grandkids.
I’m Savanna Collins, a junior at the University of Florida studying telecommunications, hoping one day to be a sports broadcaster. As a student, I get to work for ESPN Gainesville 95.3 FM, a radio station as well as a local sports news source.
I’m one of the beat reporters for Florida Gator football and cover the practices, press conferences and the games. On Saturday, the crew and I set off for Jacksonville for what would become the best/worst day of my existence.
We started off on the set of SEC Nation and had backstage passes to watch the pregame show hosted by Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears, Paul Finebaum, Maria Taylor and Laura Rutledge.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 29, 2016
For me, I was looking at exactly where I want to sit one day. This is where the good stuff started unfolding.
Danny Wuerffel and Steve Spurrier were on set as guests that day. All three Florida Heisman Trophy winners sitting right in front of my eyes. As Wuerffel exited the set and passed the media area, one of “his people” called him over for a picture with the UF students.
Amazing moment No. 1.
But wait, it gets better. At media lunch, the Gator Football beat reporters from my school and I talked about Twitter followers. As a student-journalist you’re always trying to expand your audience and we talked about all the ways I could step my game up in the Twitter-sphere. Little did I know that the followers were going to come to me.
In the hallway before the game, Florida’s athletic director Jeremy Foley was standing right beside me. Any UF student knows this guy is a legend and Saturday’s game against Georgia was his last as AD before retirement. So, I got another sweet picture for the scrapbook.
The Big Hit
Now, it’s game time. I’m on the sidelines with my very expensive camera from UF shooting highlights. All is well until the second quarter.
As I’m standing on Florida’s side of the field in the mass of media, I notice I’m standing right beside the one and only Tim Tebow. I check to make sure my heart is beating. Yep, still ticking.
I try to remain cool because what does one do when standing beside a Gator God? For me it was to enjoy the moment but focus on my job and shoot the game.
Next play…Gator running back Brandon Powell gets the hand off for the carry. He cuts up the left side of the field, trailed by Bulldog defenders. I’m honed in with my camera, following the ball and Powell up the field. That’s when I realize that objects in lens are closer than they appear.
Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith goes for Powell, who topples out of bounds. Instead, he finds me; 225 pounds of football pads and muscle hurling towards me, sending me airborne and then to the ground.
My very quick progression of thoughts as a Division I linebacker is about to tackle me to the ground…
- I’m about to get hit.
- There is no where to run…brace yourself.
- DO NOT DROP THE CAMERA
- This is the most embarrassing moment of my life.
After accidentally hitting someone on the sidelines, Georgia LB Roquan Smith was quick to offer a helping hand https://t.co/JvsQCU3C5h
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 30, 2016
What could’ve made me want to crawl in a hole, instead makes me want to tell the entire world.
Smith was a gentleman and helped me up just like he would one of his teammates. I was surrounded by people asking if I was ok. One of those people was Tim Tebow.
The young woman who just got trucked on national TV is now being consoled by Tim Tebow. So guessing it's not all bad for her. #Gators
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) October 29, 2016
He’s holding onto me and my camera (which is in two pieces) and asks me my name. Shaken up, I tell him that I’m a Gator too, and after noticing the camera, that I am in big, big trouble.
I tell him I may have let one of the most expensive things I’ve ever held get broken but he wasn’t having it. He tells me we should record a video for my teacher so he can be my proof that the camera’s doom was not my fault.
In the moment, all my journalistic instincts kick in. How about an interview instead?
I check the camera, turns out its fine and a piece was easily snapped back on. I pass it off to another person on the sidelines, tell them to hit the red button, gather myself together and go. I interviewed Tim Tebow. And he said I was a champ.
We end it with a hug and he heads off to do whatever Tim Tebow does. I’m left shocked but good after getting run over by a football player.
My phone is blowing up. The stadium replayed it, national television replayed it and boy is Twitter loving it.
Jordan Scarlett scores for the 6th consecutive game, Gators take 14-10 lead over UGA. And Tebow looks to be in love with trucked girl
— Mark Long (@APMarkLong) October 29, 2016
It was definitely the other way around.
— Darwin Patterson (@SportsDarwinism) October 29, 2016
I declared the play a catch, since I didn’t lose control of the ball (camera) until after I was down.
If any team’s running backs are struggling with ball security…I’m your girl 💪🏼🎥🏈 https://t.co/X0hmiTqwLB
— Savanna E. Collins (@savannaecollins) October 29, 2016
After the game, I passed Roquan Smith on the field and couldn’t help but stop him. I introduced myself as the reporter he ran over…maybe not the best conversation starter. He was very apologetic but I told him it was just an accident and let him know he packs a mean punch behind his hits. But he probably already knew that.
Let’s just say I was one of the most pitied and envied person at the Florida-Georgia game.
So was getting trucked by a linebacker on national television worth it? Absolutely.