Everything moved slowly and quickly at the same time. The Gators were down in the second quarter of the annual Florida-Georgia football game, but Michael McNeely tuned out the crowd noise and focused on one task: “Catch the ball, then go from there.”
He had worked on this play for days. He lined up to hold the ball for a field goal attempt but instead darted down the field for a touchdown. Everything around him stood still as he ran those 21 yards to the end zone, a move that turned the tide of the game on Nov. 1, 2014, resulting in a win for the Gators.
“It was surreal; as soon as the ball was snapped, everything happened really fast,” McNeely says. “Before I knew it, my teammates were on me, celebrating, and all I could think was, ‘Did that just happen?’ I couldn’t let it sink in because we had to move on to the next play.”
McNeely — a walk-on wide receiver for the Gators who earned the nickname “fake-kick hero” for that moment and made headlines from ESPN to Yahoo Sports — graduated from UF with a bachelor’s degree in fall 2014, trading his jersey for a white coat. After four years at the UF College of Medicine, he now turns his attention to the next play: a family medicine residency at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle.