Austin Appleby bookends career vs. Iowa, with plenty to reflect on in between

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Austin Appleby’s college football debut came in 2013 against Iowa, as a redshirt freshman quarterback at Purdue.

And coincidentally, his final collegiate game will come against Iowa as well, as a fifth-year senior for Florida in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fla.

So much has transpired between those bookend games against the Hawkeyes.

He traded the starting job back and forth over his last two seasons at Purdue and did the same in this, his lone season at Florida. He received plenty of criticism this fall from a weathered fan base with little patience remaining for the most demanding position in sports, delivered some highlights along the way, contributed his share of mistakes and all told ended up playing far more than anyone in Gainesville could have imagined.

All the while seeming to enjoy every moment of it, despite whatever the outside perspective may be.

“I try to stay out of the media the best I can. I know you guys do a great job, but I try not to read it,” Appleby said after the Gators’ first bowl practice a week and a half ago. “But we know what goes on in this building. I get coached hard every single day. I know the things that I do well. I know the things I need to work on, so does the rest of this team. The pass game is a reflection not of just me throwing the ball — but it’s protection, it’s receivers being where they need to be. The details of the pass game are so in-depth, at the end of the day what most people see is (just) the ball and where it goes and that’s the end result.” What most Florida fans see is a position that seven seasons after Tim Tebow left still has no bonafide superstar and will enter yet another offseason with uncertainty as to its future.

The plan for the Gators this fall was not to rely on a graduate transfer quarterback from Purdue, but like most seasons in recent memory for the program, that plan went off script.

Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio opened the season as the starter, but he got hurt twice while missing a total of 6 games already. That opened the door for Appleby, who has his own perspective on this 2016 campaign.

He had grown up a Gators fan in Northeast Ohio, inspired by Tebow and dreaming of playing for Florida. And after a four-year detour to West Lafayette, Ind., he indeed made it to Gainesville, albeit with no assurance of any playing time.

In the end, he’d play half the season and earn the nod to make one final start in the Outback Bowl.

Ultimately, that’s how he’ll remember this fall.

“It’s a reward for all the hard work. On top of it, it’s his last college experience. I don’t think there’s anybody more happy than Austin,” his father Michael Appleby said looking at this final game. “He has an opportunity to go out and play one more […]