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
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
"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
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."