The performance by the fans was the celebration of Gainesville’s “No. 1 Son.”
In the wake of Tom Petty’s death this week at the age of 66, University of Florida fans offered up a rousing tribute to the Gainesville native with a stadium-wide rendition of “I Won’t Back Down” during a Saturday’s LSU matchup.
With a break in the action, the crowd of Gator fans, a team that Tom Petty has celebrated over the course of his storied career, took to bellowing out the lyrics of one of his most famous songs. The moment was planned and shared on social media via a statement from University of Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin, which was posted on the Gators’ website.
“Let’s celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community. 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.”
The crowd got the memo and offered up this rousing rendition with tens of thousands of fans joining in on the widely known rock anthem.
Though Tom Petty’s songs were often rife with Southern California imagery and references, in a 2006 interview with NPR, the laid-back frontman often spoke of his upbringing in Florida. Guitarist Mike Campbell would often break out a guitar bearing the University of Florida’s logo during local live sets in the band’s later days.
Speaking to NPR’s Terry Gross, Petty spoke of his upbringing in Gainesville and the dichotomy of the city’s academic pedigree alongside its native and more rural population.
“I was in the redneck, hillbilly part of the city while growing up. 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.”
Following his death, a mural popped in the city, proclaiming the singer to be the city’s “No. 1 Son.”
As of Friday, no plans had been finalized regarding memorial services, public or private, for the late singer. However, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe has revealed she is crowdsourcing residents’ ideas for a local memorial service for the rock legend.