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July 31, 2009Before the rain came down Friday night, The Swamp was flooded with Florida fans eager to see the Gators battle it out in the Gator Charity Challenge.
About 2,500 people attended the second annual challenge in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to watch Florida players compete in a three-part strongman competition to raise money for six Shands Hospital-affiliated charities: American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Children's Miracle Network, March of Dimes, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the North Florida Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
The event was canceled due to inclement weather before the final event was held, but the team representing the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - featuring Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes - came out on top.
Six players - David Nelson, Cade Holliday, Joey Sorrentino, Lorenzo Edwards, Jermaine Cunningham and Dorian Munroe - were named captains, and they picked their squads.
With each group wearing different colored shirts, the Gators went head-to-head in the tire flip, sled push and obstacle course.
"It's been a tough off season camp, so I was a little worried about how the guys would come out here and how they would react to it," Nelson said. "But when they saw the fans out here, once the lights turned on and the competitive nature came out of them, they really enjoyed it.
"The charities got a lot out of it, and the people got a lot out of it."
Nelson added that the main goal for this year's event was to at least double the turnout from last year, a task he was excited to see accomplished, especially given the ominous clouds that rolled in shortly after the challenge kicked off.
In addition to benefiting the charities and putting on a unique show for the fans, the competition signaled the end of off-season workouts, as fall practice begins Aug. 6.
"We finished summer training on a great note and with lots of energy," strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti said. "This is how we wanted to end our off-season program heading into the fall season."
This off-season has been the toughest Nelson has experienced during his time in Gainesville, but the increased workload and intensity has kept the team from becoming complacent.
The 6-foot-5 Nelson, who weighed in at 212 in the spring, is already up to around 218 pounds and said he should be at 220 by the first day of practice.
"We're never satisfied," he said. "Every day, we come in and beat our previous best goals. Come in to the weight room, if we did 15 reps at the bench press, the next day we come in we're going to beat that - we're going to do 16, 17, 18."
Lineman Matt Patchan is "getting huge" as well, Nelson said, adding that he has put on a lot of weight over the summer.
"We're continually building on what we did the last time we worked out, and everything we did was to keep that edge on our shoulder," Nelson said. "We're trying to keep that edge and make sure we don't become complacent."
Coming Saturday: Photos and video from the Gator Charity Challenge
Mississippi State NEWS