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A Special Mother’s Day Meaning

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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I'm a product of two unique women absolutely captivated by college football and the history, pageantry and tradition that comes with

On our family calendar, Mother's Day is just one more day closer to kickoff.

Mother's Day is about celebrating the wonderful women who have always put us first. In the Bennett household, mom, and her mom before her, have always put us first-and-ten.

First, a little background information might help. My mom grew up in central Florida, a middle-child tomboy that split a large family of Bulldogs, Gators, Seminoles and Yellow Jackets. In college, she dated an Auburn Tiger lineman. In elementary school, she broke her kneecap in a game of tackle football; the culprit was a future UF linebacker. She grew up on the same street as the people who invented Gatorade. She stood on dumpsters as a small child watching the Gator Bowl over an eight-foot fence. She was teenage buddies with All-SEC UGA star Willie McClendon. She once watched a bowl game alongside GT record-holder Roddy Jones.

Mom is at the center of any football argument in the family. Most won't even watch games with her. Don't let the 5'2'' frame and sinus sniffle fool you. Her last name might be Bennett, but her first name might as well be Cornelius. She has a strong, and growing, reputation. Coaches now ask me how she is when they call. Former FSU assistant and NFL star Dexter Carter once called her mom. Former UF All-American tight end Ben Troupe affably calls her "Momma B".

Ask anyone in town about her fandom and most will just laugh. We're not quite sure yet if it's out of amusement or fear.

She makes fun of my father, a 6'2'' retired Army Lt. Col., for not being intense enough when watching games. Her web of fervor has even been known to entangle others. Dad once had to get between her and another fan when she nearly started an upper deck brawl in the Orange Bowl. Years later, a bar fight nearly ensued when mom challenged an older man for incorrectly citing the rules of the game. Fittingly, she has broken one bone as an adult -- it came after slamming her wrist on a table while watching her team lose on a missed kick.

Slip up on Saturday -- and mom, proverbially at least, will be right in your face.

Watch my mom on any Saturday in the fall and you will see decades worth of passion unravel in mere moments. You will also see her mother. Nearly everyone talk of how they, in many ways, see a former generation in the current. My mom mimics her mom in almost everything she does. I see it when she smiles. I sometimes see it most when she cheers. 

My late grandmother was one of the most fun, quirky people anyone would ever meet. Growing up, my brother and I didn't want to spend the night with our friends, we wanted to stay with her. She was someone everyone fell in love with. "Mee-maw", as we called her, was Lewis Grizzard, Bear Bryant and Jimmy Buffett molded into a Mel Brooks movie character with gaudy earrings and a bright-colored purse.

An overzealous Florida football fan, Mee-maw obsessed over Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel, whose football card she had taped to her vanity. Mee-maw called Wuerffel "Danny Boy" and routinely referred to him as "our cousin" at family gatherings. As for, you guessed it, "Stevie Boy", she somehow found his meltdown faces and sideline tantrums affable and engaging. Raised in the Sunshine State, Mee-maw carried with her a circle of warmth for her loved ones and her Gators.

An active socialite, Jenny Lee was well-known in the coastal communities of central and north Florida and, later, coastal Georgia. She volunteered at hospitals, was involved in every non-profit organization listed in the phone book and was a fixture at local chamber of commerce events. When you asked people if they knew her, they responded by saying her name with a rising pitch in their voice.

"Who, Jee-NNYYY?" they would ask with a smile.

That type of person.

Mee-maw's Saturday gameday apparel was a makeshift Halloween costume. She had orange Reebok's she cut the toes out of and made into flip-flops and white capri pants with Gator logos patterned all over them. Additionally, Mee-maw wore an orange Florida shirt, a beaded necklace with a huge Gator fixture and bright UF earrings. This, mind you, was just for staying at home. She was as tan as a leather couch, spending 3-4 hours a day laying out by the pool in the hot southern sun.

Take that visual and add this scene; following big Florida plays, she would emerge shaking orange pom-poms singing "Go Gators...Woo...Woo...Woo." A very distinct giggle would soon follow. It was the type of sequence that would make you laugh, wince and wonder all at once.

Mee-maw was the perfect fan. She loved her Gators unconditionally. Win, lose or draw, mee-maw proudly wore her Florida gear and never once talked bad about her players or coaches. They were her family. Mee-maw would cringe when there was an injury on the field and would, sincerely, hold her hands together out of deep and genuine concern. At the same time, however, she would root for injuries, minor mind you, for all of UF's opponents. Those admissions came sheepishly, however, as if she was whispering quietly and didn't want God to hear.

My mother and my grandmother are both wonderful, caring people. They are also the epitome of all of the southern football stereotypes. Upon that strong and striking foundation, my football fanship was long ago built.

I'm a product of two unique women absolutely captivated by college football and the history, pageantry and tradition that comes with. Shelve the flowers and picture frames, Mother's Day at my parent's house has long come with charcoal and face paint. On our family calendar, it's just one more day closer to kickoff.

In a family where school nicknames have all but replaced last names, it's a mom and a mee-maw who continue to lead us all out of the huddle.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports