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Florida crowd belts out ‘I Won’t Back Down’ to honor Gainesville native Tom Petty

A Petty classic comes to the Swamp, where it might become a new tradition.

Tom Petty’s death this week at 66 shocked and saddened a lot of people. Among them are many in his hometown, Gainesville, Fla. The city’s Florida Gators honored Petty at their game Saturday against LSU.

Lots of college football teams have musical traditions for the end of the third quarter. Florida’s, whether at home or away, is for the band to play "We Are the Boys from Old Florida" while fans sway in unison. After that, on Saturday, the Gators played “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers across Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The whole crowd sang along, and it was a really cool scene:

Another vantage point:

UF’s release explaining the playing of the song:

"Let's celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,'' Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. "Since we are already singing 'We are the Boys,' let's go right from that into one of his great anthems and make that the way we are going to jointly celebrate Tom Petty and the Gators."

Perhaps a new tradition will be born.

"We encourage fans to sing along as a way to honor a local legend and share a special moment in his music,'' said Alicia Longworth, assistant athletics director of marketing and promotions. "Tom Petty is a beloved figure for so many Gator fans."

That bolding’s mine. If Florida wants to play “I Won’t Back Down” over its loudspeakers after the third quarter of every game, it seems pretty likely that people are going to start singing along. It’s not hard to imagine it becoming a bona-fide Thing.

It sounds like a good idea to me. I’m not an expert on his discography, but “Won’t Back Down” is one of my favorite Petty songs, up there with “Free Fallin’” and “Learning to Fly.” I am sure there are others worthy of post-third quarter playings, but this one is great, and it sends the right kind of message heading into the final 15 minutes.

The music video for the song, which is great: