When defensive linemen Andrew Chatfield and Nesta Silvera announced the decision on Wednesday regarding where they would play college football, the two top players out of American Heritage Plantation held Chucky dolls.
It’s a familiar face among horror movie buffs. The red hair, the scarred face, the striped shirt with overalls.
Chucky has also been a symbol familiar to Florida Gator football fans for the past few years.
But the doll the two high school players clutched as they made their decision to attend different schools — Chatfield chose Florida and Silvera stayed true to his Miami commitment — has ties to a Florida Gators tradition started by one of their defensive linemen a few years ago.
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The fascination around the doll in Gainesville started during the 2013 season with star defensive tackle Dominique Easley, who viewed the movie series centered around the murderous doll as a comedy and kept it with him almost everywhere he went, according to The Independent Florida Alligator. After Easley suffered a season-ending torn ACL injury during practice during that 2013 season, he handed the doll over to teammate and friend Dante Fowler Jr. The doll continued down the chain of command on the defense over the past few years, a group that has churned out 17 NFL draft picks since that 2013 season, including five first-round picks.
Chatfield, a four-star prospect and the 13th-ranked weakside defensive end in the 2018 class according to the 247Sports composite rankings, hopes to continue that legacy.
“Somebody kind of reminded me of it and I’m a big fan of Dante Fowler … and I’m going to come out and represent the Florida Gators the right way,” Chatfield said on an ESPNU broadcast of American Heritage’s signing day ceremony.
As for Silvera, he said the doll will stay with him at Miami as well.
“Every college game day you’re going to see me and him with a Chucky doll,” Silvera said on the ESPNU broadcast.
They’ll play against each other in 2019, when Florida and Miami open the season in Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
Silvera isn’t the first to bring a Chucky doll with him to a signing day announcement and not choose Florida, however. Byron Cowart — the No. 3 overall prospect from the 2015 recruiting class — had Chucky to his left when he made his decision. He chose the Auburn Tigers.