Gator Chomp and ‘I Won’t Back Down’: Iconic traditions await Ute fans in Florida
The Gator Chomp has been around since 1981, while the Tom Petty anthem is a more recent tradition
GAINESVILLE, Florida — It’s considered one of the most famous sports-related hand movements in the country, like the Tomahawk Chop and The Wave.
It’s called the “Gator Chomp,” and chances are Utah will become quite familiar with it when it visits Florida Saturday (5 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at The Swamp.
Utes on the air
No. 7 Utah (0-0)
at Florida (0-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
Radio: ESPN 700
The Gator Chomp originated four decades ago, in 1981, and has been a popular tradition ever since.
It began when the Gators were playing Mississippi State in Jackson, Mississippi, during that 1981 season. Two members of the University of Florida pep band, Monty Musgrave and Rob Hyatt, noticed that when Mississippi State’s tuba section played the theme from the movie “Jaws,” the Bulldog cheerleaders would make a rhythmic motion with their hands.
So the Florida band members decided to adapt that motion, simulating two jaws clamping down. It was first known as “Gator Jaws.” But after some legal wrangling with legendary “Jaws” composer John Williams, it became the “Gator Chomp.”
The Gator Chomp was introduced at The Swamp on Oct. 10, 1981, during Florida’s 15-10 victory over Maryland.
It’s now an iconic cheer and a staple of game day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
More recently, a new tradition has sprung up at The Swamp.
Rock and roll superstar Tom Petty never attended the University of Florida, but he is a Gainesville native. Petty worked as a groundskeeper for the school before he became famous as the lead singer for The Heartbreakers.
On Oct. 2, 2017, Petty died at the age of 66. Since his passing, Florida fans have been singing one of his hits, “I Won’t Back Down,” in unison during games at The Swamp.
And that’s how the Gators keep Petty’s legacy alive.
The Gator Chomp and “I Won’t Back Down” have become part of the fabric of Florida‘s football tradition.