Gators turn to former Vikings WR Carter after teammate's death
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators, still reeling from the death of a teammate, received counsel Monday from someone who has been through a similar situation.
Former NFL star Cris Carter, one of coach Urban Meyer's closest friends, spoke to the team about how he dealt with the deaths of teammates Jerome Brown and Korey Stringer.
"I think everybody was uplifted through it," quarterback Tim Tebow said.
The 14th-ranked Gators were trying to rebound from consecutive close losses to Auburn and LSU when walk-on defensive back Michael Guilford died early Friday when his motorcycle hit a curb at high speed. Also killed in the crash was Ashley Slonina, the girlfriend of freshman cornerback Joe Haden.
"It is obviously a very, very difficult situation," Meyer said.
Guilford was apparently giving Slonina a ride home when his 1998 silver Kawasaki struck a median near campus. Police estimated the motorcycle was traveling 25 to 30 mph over the speed limit.
Neither was wearing a helmet.
News of the deaths quickly spread through the team, and players were still trying to cope with the loss Monday before a private memorial service.
"It's a terrible tragedy," receiver Percy Harvin said. "Our team's really in shock right now. It really hasn't hit us yet. A lot of us will be down. We've just got to lean on each other and lean on our teammates to get us through this tragedy."
Guilford, nicknamed Sunshine, earned national attention for playing the role of Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith on the scout team during preparation for the Bowl Championship Series national title game in January, which the Gators won 41-14.
Guilford moved to defense last spring. He was named one of the scout team's players of the week following Florida's win over Mississippi earlier this season.
His father, Jerry, had traveled to Gainesville two days before his death to spend some time with his son during Florida's off week.
The Gators returned to practice Monday and were still working through details of how to honor Guilford the rest of the season, beginning Saturday at No. 8 Kentucky.
"He was a great kid and I'm just thankful for the 19 years he had and all the lives he impacted, including myself," Tebow said. "He was a special kid."
Although crisis counselors were available to players, Meyer turned to Carter for help. Carter and Brown were teammates in Philadelphia for three years before Brown's death in an automobile accident in June 1992. Nine years later, Carter found himself dealing with the heat-related death of Stringer in Minnesota.
"A lot of people respect Cris Carter and just to hear him go through the same thing and how he handled it, it gave us an opportunity to see or give us ideas of ways that we can handle the situation," linebacker Dustin Doe said. "It helped us a lot.
"I think we're going to handle it OK. He's one of our brothers, but things happen every day. ... It hurts, but the only thing we can do is keep living. We can't go into dark holes and things like that because we know that's not what he would have wanted."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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