College football is rich with tradition and symbols.
With the rise of the “Turnover Chain” at the University of Miami, we’ve now seen later iterations of traditions, including turnover pencils and chainsaws. There is a form of team camaraderie built in these symbols, meant to celebrate defensive excellence. But was the turnover chain the first of these symbols? Wrong. There’s a certain tradition that belongs to the University of Florida that has been passed down for eight years now, long before Mark Richt was at Miami.
If you’ve been to Valdosta High School football games, you may have seen a doll on the sidelines, the infamous Chucky doll.
When Jaheim Bell initially committed to the University of Florida, the doll became a staple around games, and it carries a tradition that goes back a few years for the Gators.
Chucky, of course, is the murderous doll from the cult classic movies of the 1980s and ’90s. But the Gator tradition was started in 2011: When defensive end Dominique Easely had the Chucky doll, it was a symbol of the Gators’ tenacity and killer instinct on the defensive side of the ball. It was that defensive dominance and spirit that made the Chucky doll their staple for years to come.
Chucky became the second symbol for the Gators, and their killer instinct on the defensive side of the ball was being written into the record books. Florida was constantly one of the top defensive teams in the country, and every year saw another great prospect drafted from their ranks.
From then on, many players carried on the tradition, with Dante Fowler Jr. taking the doll from Easely and passing it along for years. It was a span that saw 17 Gators defensive players drafted, showing their dominance. That’s when it hit the recruiting scene.
Many players began using the doll as their unofficial form of commitment to the university. The symbol for the great defensive players who had pride for the Gators made its way to high school sidelines, and now you’ll see the doll with nearly every recruit. The tradition had transcended its initial purpose and became a Florida Gator staple.
Bell had it with him to announce his initial commitment to the University of Florida, and while he may have since turned away from Florida, the Chucky tradition lives on. You can assume you’ll see many more Chucky dolls come National Signing Day as players don the Gator blue and orange.