Mr. Two Bits
|George Edmondson Jr.|
"Mr. Two Bits" leading a pre-game cheer
|Born||1922 (age 95–96)|
George Edmondson Jr. (born 1922) is a retired insurance salesman from Tampa, Florida who is known to the University of Florida community as "Mr. Two Bits". Edmondson is a long-time fan of — and unofficial cheerleader for — the Florida Gators football team, for which he led a traditional "Two Bits' cheer at football games from 1949 until his "retirement" at the conclusion of the Gators' 2008 season.
Beginning with the 2009 season, a series of University of Florida students and famous alumni have taken over the Mr. Two Bits role during pregame festivities at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
"Mr. Two Bits"
After serving as a Navy fighter pilot during World War II, George Edmondson settled in Tampa, Florida and worked in the insurance business. The Two Bits tradition began spontaneously in 1949, when Edmondson was attending the opening game of Florida's football season against The Citadel, a school that he briefly attended before enlisting in the United States Navy during World War II. The Gators had lost five of their last six games the previous year and were not expected to do any better. When the fans booed the players and the coach even before the opening kickoff, Edmondson decided to boost their morale by leading them in a cheer about adding up bits (a "bit" is an eighth of a dollar, so eight of them would indeed total one dollar). The Gators won the game, and fans were so enthusiastic about Edmondson's cheer that he returned the next Saturday to lead it again. Eventually, he began leaving his seat to wander throughout the stands of Florida Field, leading fans in different sections in the cheer. Edmondson continued this pattern for the rest of the 1949 season and after, leading the Two Bits cheer at almost every Gator home game and selected road and bowl games over the next several decades. Beginning In the 1970s, he was invited to lead the entire stadium in the cheer from the field before each home game.
Edmondson was never paid for his services, and even after he was asked to lead his cheer from the field, he insisted on paying for his season tickets like any other fan. In the early 1980s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse offered to pay Edmondson "real well" to lead the Two Bits cheer at his hometown Bucs games. Edmondson declined the offer, saying, "What I do for the Gators is from the heart, not from the pocketbook."
Edmondson announced his retirement from cheerleading at the end of the 1998 football season, and received a game ball from then-coach Steve Spurrier. However, he continued to occasionally lead the Two Bits cheer from his seat in the stands, and was eventually talked into once again leading the cheer from the field before each home game. He retired for good at the end of the 2008 season, and the university held another ceremony prior to the last home game against The Citadel, the same team the Gators were playing when Edmondson began the tradition 60 seasons earlier. Edmondson has not performed the cheer since his second retirement, saying at the time that "at 86 years of age, I've got to slow down. Nothing is forever."
Edmondson and his wife, Jane, attended a few Gator home games in the season after his retirement, but now watch on TV from their home in Tampa. They sponsor the Mr. Two Bits Scholarship Fund, which benefits a University of Florida cheerleader every year.
Though Edmondson was never a University of Florida student, the university named him an honorary alumnus of the school in 2005, and he has claimed it as his new alma mater. He was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as an "honorary letter winner" in 1992.
Edmondson used a similar routine whether he led his cheer from the stands or from the field. During the game, he would walk through the stands, wait for a break in the action, then draw attention to himself and silence the crowd by holding up a small orange and blue sign reading "2 Bits" and blowing a whistle. (He used a bugle during his first few years, but found a whistle to be easier to carry.) Once the surrounding fans quieted down, Mr. Two Bits prompted them to yell each line of the cheer with arm waves and fist pumps, encouraging them to roar after the last line.
When performing during pre-game festivities, Mr. Two Bits would be introduced and then energetically jog to midfield wearing his signature outfit. Then, using the same whistle and sign and even more vigorous arm waving, he would lead the entire Florida Field crowd in the cheer. Usually, his routine came just before the entrance of the Gator football team and the opening kickoff.
As performed at the University of Florida, the Two Bits cheer is as follows:
All for the Gators Stand up and holler!
During his time as Mr. Two Bits, Edmonson wore a distinctive outfit consisting of a long-sleeved yellow dress shirt, an orange and blue tie, white and blue striped seersucker pants, and black and white saddle shoes to every Gator game. This was standard attire for college football fans when he started performing the cheer in the late 1940s, and he continued to wear his "lucky" outfit to stand out in the crowd after his cheer became popular.
Celebrity Mr. Two-Bits
Since Edmondson's 2008 retirement, costumed mascot Albert the Alligator has donned a special Mr. Two Bits outfit to lead the cheer from the field during pregame festivities. Since 2013, Albert has been joined by a famous alumnus or a student contest winner to serve as a "Celebrity Mr. Two Bits" for the day. These special guests usually wear similar clothing to that worn by the original Mr. Two Bits, and lead the crowd in the cheer in a similar whistle-blowing and arm-waving fashion. A few of the guest Mr. Two Bits have also wandered through the stands to lead various sections in the cheer like Edmondson once did.
Most Celebrity Mr. Two-Bits honorees have been popular former University of Florida athletic stars. The list includes Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Danny Wuerffel, professional golfer Chris Dimarco, Olympic medal-winning swimmer Dara Torres, and members of Florida's back-to-back NCAA champion basketball team. Heisman Trophy winning player and national championship winning coach Steve Spurrier was the Celebrity Mr. Two Bits at the first game of the 2016 season, when the field was rechristened "Steve Spurrier – Florida Field" in his honor. Since 2014, a current UF student has been selected to be the guest Mr. Two Bits for one game per season. Also since 2014, the guest Mr. Two Bits for a home game near to Veterans Day has been a veteran with close ties to the university.
- Mr. Two Bits at SPtimes.com
- Gators' Mr. Two-Bits to hang it up after 60 years at Florida – Orlando Sentinel
- Mr. Two Bits ready to watch Gators from his Tampa home | wtsp.com
- Knight, Joey (8 January 2007). "He plans to stand up and holler". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- "Mr. Two-Bits to hang it up", Orlando Sentinel. Nov 21, 2008.
- Mr. 2-Bits hangs up his sign | Gainesville.com
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- Mr. Two–Bits to retire after 60 years of cheers – The Independent Florida Alligator: Homecoming
- F Club, Hall of Fame, Honorary Letter Winners. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
- "Sports Briefs: UF inducts seven into Hall of Fame", The Gainesville Sun, p. 4C (April 3, 1992). Retrieved July 24, 2011.
- Gators to honor George Edmondson with celebrity "Two-Bits" leaders | Tampa Bay Times