GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After the game Saturday night, the Florida players who met with the media hadn’t gotten a chance to see Luke Del Rio or hear from the injured starting quarterback about how he was feeling.
“No, I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him. I’ve been looking around for him, and I think he’s with the medical team right now,” backup quarterback Austin Appleby said. “My heart goes out to him. My heart breaks for him.”
Said junior running back Mark Thompson: “I’m not sure what happened to him. I don’t know even know what part of his body he’s injured at if he’s even that badly injured.”
Del Rio was hurt late in the third quarter of Florida’s 32-0 victory when North Texas defensive end Joshua Wheeler slammed low into the quarterback’s planted left leg as he followed through on a throw. Del Rio was down on the field in pain for several minutes before walking off on his own into the tunnel and out of the game.
Gators coach Jim McElwain said afterward that Del Rio was getting his leg looked at and that “it doesn’t look great.”
Meanwhile, Del Rio’s teammates weighed in with their reactions to the hit and the possibility of having to move forward without him.
“It was scary, but football is football and anything can happen. You gotta play every play like it’s your last play,” junior safety Marcell Harris said. “When we saw that, you know, honestly, we just said prayers up for him. Hopefully everything’s all right and we’ll see if he can come back next week.”
Appleby called the hit “very dirty” and junior cornerback Jalen Tabor used that same word.
“The quarterback is a prime position on the field. You’ve got to protect your quarterback, and when people do dirty stuff to your quarterback, you know, you get a little frustrated because that’s like one position that, you know, he kind of runs the team,” Tabor said.
If Del Rio does indeed miss a game or many more, this would mark the sixth straight season that Florida has had to use multiple starting quarterbacks.
Tabor was asked if he thought the Gators were “snake-bitten”?
“I mean, yeah, it’s kind of tough. I just hope he’s just ready for next week. I hope he can be able to play,” Tabor said. “If not, we’ll be fine, though. We’ve got good players around, so we’ll be good.”
Others reiterated that sentiment, that Florida has the depth at the position to succeed if Del Rio is sidelined.
“I’m not too worried about Luke going down because I’m confident in Austin, but like I said earlier, I’m praying for a fast recovery,” Thompson said.
Said senior defensive tackle Joey Ivie IV: “What kind of makes us confident is that Luke and Austin, they were going at it. They were head-to-head. Austin is a good quarterback. I think that if we just keep practicing hard and stay positive and stay together and stay coachable, things are going to be OK.”
Junior left tackle David Sharpe spoke of the concern in watching the team’s starting quarterback go down, but he was encouraged somewhat by seeing Del Rio get up and walk off the field on his own.
Whatever happens, the job doesn’t change, he said.
“I’m confident in all those guys. All those guys are good. Whoever it is we’re going to block for him and give him the best chance that we can for him to do his thing,” Sharpe said.