The Toughest Gator of Them All

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The toughest player on Florida’s football team is not the typical poster boy of such distinction.

Graham Mertz is a well-conditioned athlete who stands 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. He is having the best season of his college career, but NFL scouts won’t confuse him with, say, a physical freak like Anthony Richardson, the player Mertz replaced at Florida this season.

Mertz and his mop-top hairstyle strolled into Memorial Stadium late Saturday afternoon dressed more for a day at the law firm than the final Southeastern Conference game of the season. He wore stylish shades, a swanky watch, and a dark blue suit, carried a designer leather tote bag, and stepped toward the locker room in polished Oxfords.

The man knows style.

But don’t let Mr. GQ fool you. He packs a punch and can take one.

“Graham’s a warrior,” said Max Brown, Florida’s backup quarterback.

If anyone doubts Mertz’s standing as the Toughest Gator, the fourth-year junior quarterback crushed them Saturday night in Florida’s 33-31 loss at Missouri. Mertz proved his toughness this season long ago behind a leaky offensive line, bouncing up from the turf repeatedly following bruising hits.

But whatever the final memory of Mertz becomes during his time at Florida, one

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