#5 Major Wright (2007-2009)
Kicking off my list is Major Wright. In his three years as a Gator, Wright compiled 165 total tackles, eight interceptions (one for a touchdown), 15 passes defended, and four forced fumbles. He was an SEC Champion in 2008 helped the Gators win both the 2009 BCS National Championship and the 2010 Sugar Bowl.
His most memorable moment in Orange and Blue came on the third play from scrimmage in the National Championship when he laid out Oklahoma wide receiver Manny Johnson to force an incomplete pass. In addition to his monster hit, Wright had nine total tackles, two pass breakups and one interception in the National Championship. His interception was critical as it came at the end of the first half with Oklahoma on the goal line in a 14-14 game.
After his junior season and a Sugar Bowl Championship, Wright entered the 2010 NFL Draft and was selected 75th overall in the third round by the Chicago Bears. He played three years in Chicago before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wright has totaled 298 total tackles and nine interceptions (three for touchdowns) in his NFL career so far.
#4 Matt Elam (2010-2012)
Another three-year star at the University of Florida, Matt Elam absolutely tore it up on the gridiron. He accumulated 176 total tackles (23.5 for loss), five sacks, six interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 13 passes defended as he helped the Gators win the 2010 Outback Bowl and 2011 Gator Bowl.
In his last collegiate game, a 33-23 loss to Louisville in the 2013 Sugar Bowl, Elam left his mark as he recorded a team-high 11 total tackles (one for loss) and one sack.
All of his accolades came his junior year, and they include:
- First-team All-American in 2012
- First-team All-SEC in 2012
Similar to Wright, Matt Elam declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year following the Sugar Bowl. He was selected 32nd overall in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens. In two NFL seasons thus far, Elam has notched 127 tackles, 0.5 sacks, one interception, and seven passes defended.
#3 Louis Oliver (1985-1988)
I was not able to find much statistical wise on Louis Oliver, but any player who cracks the Top 10 in Gator interceptions deserves to be on this list. Oliver totaled 11 interceptions in his four-year Gator career and was a member of either a .500 or wining Florida team each year. He initially started out as a walk-on before earning his scholarship from Head Coach Galen Hall. His senior season, he helped the Gators win the 1988 All-American Bowl.
From his humble beginnings as a walk-on, Oliver would make a name for himself in Gator lore as shown by his numerous accolades which include:
- First-team All-SEC in 1987 & 1988
- First-team All-American in 1987 & 1988
- UF Hall of Fame Inductee in 2000
Following his senior year, Oliver entered the 1989 NFL Draft and was selected 25th overall in the first round by the Miami Dolphins. He would play seven years in the NFL and amass 544 total tackles and 27 interceptions (two for touchdowns).
#2 Ahmad Black (2007-2010)
Teaming up with Major Wright to form a fearsome secondary, Ahmad Black helped the Gators win the 2009 BCS National Championship and 2010 Sugar Bowl in a solid four-year career. In the National Championship, he had five tackles and an interception that set up the game-sealing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
His collegiate stats include 244 total tackles (13 for loss), 13 interceptions (3 for touchdowns), 28 passes defended, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. His 13 interceptions put him on the Top 5 list in all of Florida football history for picks!
Coming to form his senior year, Black's accolades include:
- SEC Champion in 2008
- First-team All-SEC in 2010
- First-team All-American in 2010
After graduation, Black entered the 2011 NFL Draft and was selected 151st overall in the fifth round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played just two years in the NFL and recorded just 53 tackles and two interceptions.
#1 Reggie Nelson (2005-2006)
Coming in at the top spot is Reggie Nelson. After transferring to UF from community college, Nelson balled during his sophomore and junior years in Orange and Blue. In just two seasons he had 97 total tackles (six for loss), four sacks, seven interceptions (one for a touchdown), 11 passes defended, and one forced fumble. He served as a major catalyst during his junior year in 2006 as he helped lead the Gators to the school's second ever National Championship.
Nelson was an unstoppable force during his final year at Florida as he took home numerous accolades like:
- First-team All-SEC in 2006
- Consensus All-American in 2006
- Jack Tatum Trophy in 2006
- SEC Champion in 2006
After winning the 2007 BCS National Championship, Nelson declared for the 2007 NFL Draft and was selected 27th overall in the first round by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is currently still in the league as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals and has racked up 570 total tackles, 22 interceptions (one for a touchdown), and 6.5 sacks in what has been a successful career for him up to this point.
Honorable Mentions: None
So there you have it. With the conclusion of this article I have finished listing my Top 5 Gator football players by position. It was a grueling process that took about six months in the making, but I am very proud and blessed that I was able to complete such a daunting task. I have no idea what my next big writing assignment will be as I have a crazy month and a half of a semester left along with other social commitments and my recovery from mono.
That being said, I am always brainstorming and I know that soon enough I will have a new project in the works! Thank you to everybody who has kept up with these articles since the beginning and stay tuned as I prepare to get back on the Florida Gator sports beat in the upcoming months! Go Gators!
*All stats accredited to College Football @ Sports-Reference.com, Pro Football-Reference.com & Wikipedia.com
*All photos accredited to behindblondiepark.com, projectshanks.com, secrant.com, floridatoday.com, & posternation.com