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Florida’s “I Won’t Back Down” Tradition Gives Gator Fans Endless Goosebumps
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images (left), Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images (right)

The end of the third quarter has turned into an all-immersive singalong around the college football world. Wisconsin goes crazy for “Jump Around,” Oregon lets loose with a rendition of “Shout,” Michigan comes out of their cage and they do just fine while belting “Mr. Brightside.”

The University of Florida partakes in an end of the third quarter that hits close to home. The Gator faithful pays tribute to Gainesville’s own Tom Petty by singing his timeless classic “I Won’t Back Down.” Since its inception, the tradition has become a treasured classic in The Swamp that likely will never end.

Florida’s “I Won’t Back Down” Tradition

RELATED: Florida’s “We Are The Boys” Tradition is Hard to Beat

Tom Petty humbly grew up in Gainesville, Florida, before he was a rock icon. Petty never attended UF, but he worked on the grounds crew at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium for a short time. Things ended up working out for him when he left The Sunshine State.

When Petty passed away in October 2017, the Florida Gators honored their hometown hero by playing “I Won’t Back Down” at the end of the third quarter against LSU. It was an emotional moment for Gator fans and everyone who loved Petty’s music.

How Did Florida’s “I Won’t Back Down” Tradition Begin?

Florida explained the reasoning for playing the song in a release:

“Let’s celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,” Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. “Since we are already singing ‘We are the Boys,’ let’s go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators.”

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Perhaps a new tradition will be born.

“We encourage fans to sing along as a way to honor a local legend and share a special moment in his music,” Assistant Athletics Director of Marketing and Promotions Alicia Longworth said. “Tom Petty is a beloved figure for so many Gator fans.”

A new tradition was born indeed.

Petty’s anthem has become a hit at Florida football games since. The song is played right after “We Are The Boys,” giving fans just enough time to take a swig of water and keep their vocal cords loose.

I’m a big fan of songs that have special meanings to fanbases. For instance, take John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at West Virginia. Florida has the privilege of being the home to Tom freaking Petty. His music simply rocks, and I don’t want to be friends with anyone who disagrees.

“I Won’t Back Down” is one of those songs you sing at the end of the night with your friends at the bar. It’s a song that’s played at the end of a wedding reception with the guy who has a tie around his head screaming until he looses his voice.

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On Saturdays at The Swamp, “I Won’t Back Down” gives Florida fans a jolt of adrenaline to cheer on the Gators in the fourth quarter.

MORE: “The Promise” Speech Cemented Tim Tebow’s Legacy

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Joe Grobeck About the author:
Joe is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and lives in Austin, Texas. He believes Ndaumkong Suh should've won the 2009 Heisman and is an avid basketball fan.
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