Commentary

Vying for The Hawk

Championship-style belt has Florida defenders motivated to compete

Originally Published: November 14, 2011
By Michael DiRocco | GatorNation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Years ago, Ric Flair used to wander the Florida sideline during football games.

Now it's Florida's defenders who look like professional wrestlers.

[+] EnlargeThe Hawk
Michael DiRocco/ESPN.comThe top defensive player from each Florida victory is awarded The Hawk, a championship-style belt that has become a coveted prize among Gators defenders.
Each week after a victory, one defensive player is awarded The Hawk, which is a black, leather belt with a gold hawk design in the middle. It's modeled after the championship belts worn by Flair and others, and it goes to the Gators' defensive player of the game.

"We look forward to seeing who's going to win it each and every week," defensive tackle Omar Hunter said. "As far as that belt goes, we treat that as a championship performance, and whoever plays the best [gets the belt]. Guys take a lot of pride and honor in that."

The winner writes his name on the belt. Linebacker Lerentee McCray is on there. So is defensive back Jaylen Watkins. Defensive tackle Dominique Easley has his name on it twice -- one on each side of the gold hawk atop the globe of flags.

The winner is announced on Monday morning and presented the belt by defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. It's one of several awards the coaching staff gives out each week following victories. There's a Hard Hat award, which goes to a big hitter, and a Ball Hawk award, which goes to the players who cause or make turnovers of who are always around the ball.

There's also a Scrap Iron award, which goes to the best offensive lineman, and a Big Play award.

But none might be as revered among the players -- on defense, at least -- as The Hawk belt. It even gets discussed during games.

"Sometimes when we're not in the heat of the game we'll come to the sideline and be like, 'I'm getting that belt. I'm going to get this sack,' " Hunter said. "Different things like that go on."

It gets a little competitive among the units, too.

"We say the D-line cheats and gets it because, of course, their coach gives it out," said linebacker Jon Bostic, who won The Hawk after making 10 tackles, recording one sack, and forcing a fumble against Kentucky. "I swear they used to cheat on us. But it's competitive. We all go at it every day."

Hunter denies Bostic's cheating allegation. If that were true, Hunter said, he'd have won the belt by now.

"They've been cheating me," Hunter said. "They've just been cheating me. I'm going to keep working hard and hopefully I can get it one week.

"I've got a Ball Hawk shirt before. I got the Hard Hat once. I'm just missing my gold, my title."

Michael DiRocco covers University of Florida sports for GatorNation. He can be reached at espndirocco@gmail.com or on Twitter @ESPNdirocco.

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