Keiwan Ratliff was a starting corner back on the 2000 SEC Champion Florida Gators team. Ratliff then went on to become a second round pick and play seven years in the National Football League. Today we are going to flashback to when Ratliff was a Gators and relive his dream all over again. The start of DBU.
As a kid, Ratliff grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, where his dad coached football and his brother played as well.
“I really have no idea why I started playing football,” Ratliff said. “I have been playing my whole life, my dad was a coach and my brother played, it was just something you did.”
Growing up in Ohio, Ratliff watched a lot of Penn State games and a lot of his friends were being offered scholarships to places like Ohio State, Michigan Penn State and Nebraska.
“Growing up where I grew up in Ohio, you didn’t get to watch a lot of Florida games,” Ratliff said. “You mostly got teams like Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, so those are the games I watched and why I was a Penn State fan growing up.”
Florida wasn’t originally the plan for Ratliff while he was figuring out his choices in High School.
“My top two were Penn State and Michigan and Purdue came in late so they were number three,” Ratliff said. “I really hated Ohio State and I was going to go to Michigan before Coach Stoops called.”
Ratliff’s Junior season, Coach Stoops (Now Head Coach of Oklahoma) called his High School Coach to see if Ratliff was as good as his father.
“Coach Stoops called and said that if I was half as good as my dad, Chucky Ratliff, then the Gators would offer,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff, fueled by his hatred for Ohio State, was dead set on going to the University of Michigan. But Ratliff decided to visit the University of Florida after Spurrier spent two days hanging out with Ratliff and the family.
“Coach Spurrier flew up to see what I was all about and spent two days with me,” Ratliff said. “Spurrier didn’t really try to recruit me, he just came and chilled at the house with the family for those two days.”
Spurrier’s visit might have helped Ratliff’s decision to give Florida a visit but something else was a big reason Ratliff ended up at the University of Florida.
“When I visited the Swamp, it was sometime in January,” Ratliff said. “It was like 75-80 degrees down in the Swamp. I knew from that moment that I was never going back.”
It was definitely a surprise to a lot of people in Ratliff’s area who are accustom to seeing their talented players attend Universities in the Big 10, not SEC.
“Florida was definitely different,” Ratliff said. “I kind of liked the idea of getting away from home and playing ball.”
Ratliff, who was 5’10 160 pounds as a Senior, wanted to play wide receiver really bad in college. While he did lineup at receiver for stints at the University of Florida, he is more known for his abilities on the defensive side of the ball.
During his four year career with the Gators, Ratliff set the school records for punt return yards (860), interceptions in a season (9), and interceptions in a game (3). Ratliff was also a first-team All-SEC selection in 2002-2003, and a consensus first-team All-American in 2003. To cap off his career, Ratliff was recognized as the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and picked by his teammates as the Gators Most Valuable Player.
Ratliff would like you to know he was also the only player to catch a touchdown and return an interception back for a touchdown in the same season as well.
“I really wanted to be a wide receiver so I like people to know that I was the only player to catch a touchdown and return an interception for a touchdown in the same season,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff really enjoyed his time playing for the Gators, especially with coach Spurrier.
“Coach Spurrier has got to be my favorite coach of all time,” Ratliff said. “I try to imitate his personality as a coach when I teach kids football.”
“Coach Spurrier was the most up front coach that I have ever played with,” Ratliff said. “If you were balling and making plays, he would let you be a player.”
Ratliff’s favorite memory as a Gator still lives in his memory to this day.
“My favorite moment was winning the SEC Championship as a freshman,” Ratliff said. “I assumed we would do it every year and it ended up being the only one I got.”
Being a Gator was one of the best decision’s that Ratliff said he has made.
“Being a Gator allowed my dreams to come true,” Ratliff said. “The University of Florida allowed me the opportunity to make my dreams come true, it was the greatest decision ever.”
Ratliff does have advice for those up and coming players about to enter the College Football ranks.
“You got to get your degree,” Ratliff said. “No matter where you are playing, finish your degree and get your moneys worth out of the University.”
Ratliff has since retired from the NFL after a very successful career. Ratliff now trains and educates young men on football and the recruiting process. Ratliff also runs a 7 vs. 7 team called the Rat Pak.
We want to thank Ratliff for taking the time to sit down with us and relive his best moments as a Gator. We wish him the best of luck going forward.