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TIGER KICKOFF: Ten things you didn't know about Florida

Friday, November 2, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — The Missouri football team has finished the brutal part of its 2012 schedule.

Now for the other brutal part.

Missouri has already faced three teams ranked No. 7 or better in The Associated Press poll, but the Tigers still have to play three SEC teams on the road, beginning Saturday at Florida.

Missouri needs two more wins to become bowl eligible, but of Missouri's remaining games, the most unlikely win for the Tigers is the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, better known as "the Swamp," in Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators are coming off their first loss of the season, but they remain high in the AP rankings at No. 8. The Tigers are coming off their first conference win but are still just 4-4 overall.

You might think you know what will happen when the Tigers face the Gators on Saturday, but here are ten things you didn't know about Florida:

10. Florida used a live alligator as a mascot, beginning in 1957. In 1970, the school switched to using a full-body costume for the mascot named Albert. In 1986, Albert gained a female companion named Alberta. The couple has represented the Gators at games together ever since.

9. Ryan Lochte, Abby Wambach and other Gators won 21 medals total at the London Olympics, including nine gold medals. Only USC earned more medals than Florida.

8. Florida has some strong Saturday Night Live connections. Actress Maya Rudolph, an SNL cast member from 2000 to 2007, was born in Gainesville. Actor Darrell Hammond, an SNL cast member from 1995 to 2009, graduated from Florida in 1978.

7. In 2009, Gainesville became the first "Butterfly City" in the U.S. Gainesville is also recognized as a tree city, but earned the butterfly title because of Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History. A founder of the Butterfly Education Project, the organization that granted the title to Gainesville, told The Independent Florida Alligator, "What 'Tree City' did for 20th century, 'Butterfly City' will do for the 21st century." We can only hope.

6. I am Emmitt Smith. No, I'm not. But the NFL's all-time leading rusher played for the Gators from 1987 to 1989. His 36 rushing touchdowns were a record at Florida until Tim Tebow broke that mark in 2008. Smith won three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, but more recently, the Pro Football Hall of Famer has found success on the dance floor. He won season three of Dancing With the Stars in 2006 and is currently competing on an All-Star season of the show.

5. Wendy's restaurants are named after a Florida alumnus. The founder of the fast-food chain, the late Dave Thomas, named the restaurants after his daughter Melinda Lou "Wendy" Morse, who graduated from Florida in 1983.

4. In 1960, Florida alumnus Joe Kittinger jumped from the altitude of 102,800 feet, setting the record for the highest altitude jump. But in Oct. 14, Kittinger helped Felix Baumgartner break his record for highest parachute fall. Through the Red Bull Stratos project, Baumgartner jumped from an altitude of 128,100 feet. Kittinger served as the main radio contact between mission control and Baumgartner's capsule.

3. Tom Petty was born and raised in Gainesville. In the early 1970s, Petty was in a rock band called "Mudcrutch" with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. The band was popular in Gainesville, but that was nothing compared to the popularity that Petty, Campbell and Tench saw in the 80s and '90s with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

2. The University of Florida is a part owner of the largest optical telescope on Earth. Florida shares the Gran Telescopio Canarias with Spain and Mexico. Thirty-six segments make up the telescope's main mirror, which is 34 feet in diameter. But the telescope, located in the Canary Islands in Spain, will likely not be the largest for long. Plans are in the works for three larger telescopes to be placed in Hawaii, Chile and an undetermined location.

1. A well-known sports drink was invented in 1965 by a medical researcher at Florida named Robert Cade. Some players thought the original version of Gatorade tasted like urine. It was nothing some lemon juice and sugar couldn't fix. The school still gets a share of every sale of the drink. When Cade died in 2007, the sales from Gatorade had already brought the university more than $150 million in royalties. The money has allowed Florida to invest in many more research projects.


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