Billy Napier: Florida vs. Tennessee fight presents 'teachable moment' for players, staff

Chandler Vessels09/18/23

Florida saw three players suspended Monday due to their role in a fight that broke out on the last play of Saturday’s game against Tennessee. Offensive linemen Micah Mazzccua and Damieon George Jr., as well as tight end Dante Zanders, will all miss the first half of Week 4’s game against Charlotte as a result.

Gators coach Billy Napier addressed the situation in his weekly press conference. He noted it wasn’t just players involved in the fight, but members of the coaching staff as well, calling it a “teachable moment” for both sides.

“Look, it’s not just Micah,” Napier said. “We got staff members that probably need to be disciplined as well. Ultimately, that’s a teachable moment. It’s an opportunity for us to talk about composure and poise. Ego, temper. Football presents an opportunity to teach some of those things.”

The fight began when Tennessee defensive lineman Omari Thomas delivered a late hit on Florida quarterback Graham Mertz. That led George to shove Thomas and soon after things got out of control with multiple players involved.

Mazzccua was later seen throwing a punch at Vols defensive back Kamal Hadden. Tennessee defensive lineman Omarr Norman-Lott, the only Volunteer suspended, was also seen throwing punches.

Continuing, Napier likened the Florida players’ retaliation to getting called a name at a bar. He explained that situations like this will arise in all areas of life and he hopes the Gators involved will use this as a lesson to be more level-headed moving forward.

“It’s not gonna be the last time that you’re gonna be in an altercation,” Napier said. “We had multiple players that screwed up. They compromised the entire team because you may not be available in the future. No different than if some guy calls you a name at the local bar on Friday night. Are you gonna compromise your wife and your kids and make a poor decision? These things are teachable moments and hopefully we do enough on our part to teach ’em.”

That fight at the end of the game was an unfortunate end to what was otherwise a night to be proud of from Florida. The Gators outscored Tennessee 20-0 in the second quarter to pull away and earn the rivalry win. Running back Trevor Eitenne had a career-high 172 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown run in the opening quarter.

Florida will hope to put the fight behind and it focus on the positives as it moves on to play Charlotte at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.