October 7, 2017 at 6:53 PM
Tom Petty was widely hailed as an American music icon upon his death Monday at age 66, with salutes rolling in from just about everywhere. On Saturday, the University of Florida joined in with a remembrance of the Gainesville native.
At the end of the third quarter, after the Florida band plays “We Are the Boys from Old Florida,” Petty’s 1989 hit, “I Won’t Back Down,” blasted out from the loudspeakers.
“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 in a news release. “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.”
Though he hailed from Gainesville, Petty played on the Florida campus only twice over the last 25 years, in 1993 and 2006. Still, he appreciated the school’s presence.
“I was in the redneck, hillbilly part” of the city while growing up, he told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2006. “I wasn’t part of the academic circle, but it’s an interesting place because you can meet almost any kind of person from many walks of life because of the university. But it’s really surrounded by this kind of very rural kind of people that are — you know, they’re farmers or tractor drivers or just all kinds of — game wardens, you name it. So it’s an interesting blend.”
A mural went up in Gainesville after news of his death broke, calling Petty the city’s “No. 1 son.”
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