Dover grad has memorable final season with Gators

DOVER — It was just a walk-through, a basic practice before a big game.

But, just the same, walking onto the field at the Georgia Dome the day before the SEC championship game was a pretty special moment for Trip Thurman.

“I was in awe,” said the former Dover High football standout. “You always dream of playing on a big stage like that. Getting the opportunity to do that was just an unreal feeling.”

There’s been a lot of moments like that this fall, things that Thurman will never forget from his final season of college football.

Thurman-mom by .

Dover High grad Trip Thurman gives his mom, Cindy, a hug after his last home game at Florida. (University of Florida sports information/Tim Casey).

Now a fifth-year senior center for Florida, Thurman and the Gators get to play one more game when they face Michigan in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla. on New Year’s Day.

The bowl game is a nice reward for a Florida squad that is 10-3 after losing to Alabama in the SEC title game.

It’s the first time in four years and only the second time in Thurman’s career that the Gators have reached double digits in victories. In a lot of ways, the 6-foot-5, 313-pound lineman couldn’t have asked much more for his senior season.

“I wish we could have finished a little bit stronger but I’m happy with the season we’ve had,” said Thurman. “It’s been a tremendous season. Ten wins is incredible in itself, especially in this league.

“I think if you ask a lot of people outside of this program, they didn’t expect us to be where we’re at right now. But the guys within this program, we know how hard we’ve worked. We knew what our expectations were coming into this season. It’s been a heck of a ride.”

The Citrus Bowl will be Thurman’s 19th consecutive start. Overall, it will be the 24th start out of 41 appearances in his Florida career.

But that doesn’t mean he’s been locked into just one spot up front.

This season alone, Thurman started the first six games at left guard, the next five at right guard and now has been the starting center for the last two contests. While he saw some time there last fall, it’s the first he’s started at center for the Gators.

Only two other Florida offensive linemen since 2003 started at three different positions in the same season.

Even though it’s come at the end of his career, Thurman said he’s enjoyed the move to center.

“I feel more comfortable at center,” he said. “The mental approach is definitely different. You’re kind of the general of the offense, behind the QB. You’re yelling out who the ‘Mike’ linebacker is, you’re calling out the defense and then you’re telling the linemen to your left and right on what calls they have.

“It’s a great experience for me to have really the two biggest games of the season at that position. When you’ve been around college football as long as I have, you kind of just roll right into it.”

Thurman, who graduated last Saturday with a degree in marketing, has played all five line positions during his career. He hopes that versatility will make him more attractive to pro scouts.

He’s received interest from some of the various senior all-star games. After that, Thurman will stay in Florida and work out, waiting for NFL scouts to come through before the draft in the spring.

It’s one of those things that Thurman won’t really know where he stands until he starts getting some feedback.

Thurman-action by .

Tip Thurman has played center in his last few games with the Gators. (University of Florida sports information/Tim Casey).

“I want to see where this opportunity leads me,” he said. “There’s always projections but you never really know until you have a workout with a team or a pro day or are in a combine setting. We’ll see what happens next.

“I’m excited for the opportunity. I’m willing to bust my butt to get where I want to go. It’s always been a dream of mine to make to the next level.”

Thurman knows he’ll miss playing college football.

Where else could you have a moment like the one he had after his last home game on Nov. 28? Thurman was standing in the corner of the field with the rest of Florida’s seniors as the band played the alma mater.

Then he heard a familiar voice.

“I look over and my mom’s running down the stands, screaming my name,” Thurman said about his mother, Cindy Thurman. “So I went over there, hugged her and gave her a kiss. That was a special moment.”

Sports editor Andy Walter

can be reached at 741-8227

or walter@newszap.com.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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