Following the popularity of recapturing the talent then tribulations of Johnny Manziel, Netflix’s “Untold” series continued on Tuesday by delivering not one, but four eye-grabbing episodes involving the 2000s Florida Gator teams in “Swamp Kings.”
Spoiler Alert: For those who haven’t seen the documentary, this feature does contain notable quotes and scene descriptions.
Top Five Takeaways From ‘Swamp Kings’
Here are five takeaways after watching the latest sports project from Netflix that captures the rise and fall of the Urban Meyer-led teams in Gainesville, from five to one.
5) Urban Meyer Thought He Lost Tim Tebow on Recruiting Trail
As anticipated, Tim Tebow was a central figure in the documentary — from details of his family life, how he rose to the fiery leader he became, and handling the celebrity fame that came in Gainesville.
But there was a period when Urban Meyer slammed his fists into a dashboard regarding Tebow — which involves the day the then five-star quarterback made his college decision.
Tebow recalls the emotional moment of calling Meyer. But right before deciding between Florida and Alabama and then going in front of ESPN to make his announcement, the future Heisman Trophy winner shared how his line got cut off.
On Meyer’s end, he had thought he had just lost Tebow to the Crimson Tide. But after watching the announcement unfold, the mood immediately changed for Meyer.
4) Meyer Gives Details of His 2009 Season Fallout and What Led to His Brief Depression, Thought He Was ‘Going to Die’
Meyer mysteriously stepped down following the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title game drubbing at the hands of Alabama in the ’09 season — which ultimately was the beginning of the Crimson Tide’s dynasty under Nick Saban.
Meyer, though, admitted to not being the same coach he was for this reason: Having sleepless nights and becoming addicted to Ambien because of that.
“I was in a really bad place for a long time,” Meyer says in the documentary. “I started to lose weight, and I became addicted to Ambien. I couldn’t sleep, so I’d take an Ambien and then that was not working.”
“So it got to the point where I’d take two Ambien and drink a beer on top of it just to get four hours of sleep,” Meyer continued. “I’d have those moments where I would just sit there and I’d start sweating, shaking, like a panic attack. Like, ‘Something’s going on here. We’re not ready, we’re not ready.’”
Meyer continued, beginning to have thoughts about death.
“I felt like a failure, I was in a deep depression,” Meyer said. “I couldn’t get out of bed.… [I had] no energy, no desire. I thought I was going to die.”
Meyer eventually rescinded his decision to resign and came back to coach the 2009 team. But that would be his final season there as that Gator team went a disappointing 7-5.
3) Tebow Has Two Regrets, Including One Involving the Late Aaron Hernandez
As expected, there’s an Aaron Hernandez reference. However, it’s brief (more on that later). But Tebow admits some regrets during his Gainesville years.
The first one involves witnessing the Hernandez bar brawl and his recount of it — sharing how he heard constant racial slurs directed at the tight end, which sparked the fight. Tebow, though, reveals he regrets not pulling Hernandez out of that bar sooner.
“I blame myself for that,” Tebow says.
The second regret is Tebow not guiding the Gators to a back-to-back national title victory. As he gets chills walking back inside “The Swamp,” he gazes at the spot that has Florida’s three national titles emblazoned. But his voice begins to change and shares how there should’ve been a fourth… referencing the failed 2009 run.
Had Florida won, it would’ve been the Gators and Texas Longhorns in the Rose Bowl, which eventually saw Colt McCoy go down with an in-game injury and witnessed Saban win the first of what would be six national titles at ‘Bama.
2) Meyer Reveals Why He Didn’t Kick Off Players Who Were Arrested
Those Florida teams weren’t just known for snatching titles, but snatching the wrong kind of attention off the field.
Up to 30 different Gator players were arrested during Meyer’s time as a head coach. While Meyer was dealing with a team that he unveiled became complacent, he also dealt with a team that spiraled out of control. But Meyer was handed harsh criticism for being deemed “too soft” on his troubled players and refused to kick off players.
But was the reason why Meyer didn’t have any thoughts of sending players packing? He shared the reason: The death of Avery Atkins.
“We had a rule: Don’t hit women, or you’re kicked off the team,” Meyer begins as he unveils how the former Gator was in a relationship that became violent. Meyer kicked off the cornerback in 2006.
However, the charges for domestic battery were later dropped. Atkins, though, died of a drug overdose in June 2007.
“I took football away from him,” Meyer said while heading toward an emotional state.
1) Notable Elements Were Missing From the Documentary
There were countless players who were part of those title runs who weren’t interviewed. Furthermore, there were notable missing storylines.
Beginning with the former — while there’s mention of Percy Harvin and the Pouncey twins Mike and Maurkice, all three were not interviewed in the film. Riley Cooper was also a part of those title runs. The wide receiver who was sometimes a go-to for Tebow wasn’t asked questions about his Gainesville experiences. Even Chris Leak, who went from prized 2003 QB signing to splitting time with Tebow, never had Netflix producers asking him about the Florida days.
But that’s not all. Here’s what else wasn’t mentioned:
- Cam Newton: While there was a small mention of him, there were no details of his recruitment to Florida. Or even the stolen laptop episode at Gainesville. While the 2015 NFL season MVP has come off as someone who’s embraced the spotlight as a Pro Bowler and past Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn, perhaps he declined an interview request or simply wasn’t reached for comment.
- Carlos Dunlap: He was among the notable arrests. But there was little mention of his ordeal that occurred on the eve of the National Championship contest versus Oklahoma.
- Hernandez’s Recruitment and Time at Florida: Many CFB fans expecting an untold story about Hernandez won’t get what they want. There’s no explanation of his recruitment to UF, what convinced Meyer and Co. to give him a look, his interactions with other players in Gainesville or how his draft stock lowered because of off the field issues. Granted, Netflix did dive into a previous Hernandez documentary — so perhaps they tried to prevent a rehash. But still, fans expecting several Hernandez references won’t get much.
- Harvin and WR Coach: While Harvin was raved about for his explosiveness in college, there was no mention of one explosive confrontation involving the versatile wide receiver — between him and former WR coach Billy Gonzalez. Harvin reportedly got physical and even “choked and threw” Gonzalez to the ground. However, in 2012, Gonzalez denied it got physical between the two.
- The 2010 Season and How Things Unraveled: The film stops with only this involving the 2010 season: The Gators’ record and how Meyer eventually took over at Ohio State. There’s not one mention of a single game, including a victory that year. There’s even no mention of how Meyer and now ESPN reporter Jeremy Fowler got into it during the ’10 season. But no one — from the former head coach to the players who were on that 2010 team — spoke about the final season of the Meyer era.