Tom Petty may be gone, but he’ll never be forgotten. The Florida Gators took a moment in one of their games to honor the rock icon, as thousands of fans sang along to one of Tom’s greatest hits.
As the Florida Gators battled the LSU Tigers on Oct. 7, the team took a moment in between the third and fourth quarters to celebrate one of Florida’s native sons: Tom Petty. The 66-year-old Gainesville native passed away on Oct. 2, following a cardiac arrest, and the University of Florida couldn’t needed to say their final good-byes to the classic rock icon. In a packed stadium, close to 90k fans put aside their rivalries and differences to sing along to one of Tom’s signature anthems, “I Won’t Back Down.”
This wasn’t just the University of Florida paying tribute to a fallen rocker. Tom worked as a groundskeeper at the school’s campus before finding fame and success as part of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, per CBS Sports. The Gators had announced shortly after Tom’s death that they would honor him at this game, but the singing, according to Tiger Rag editor Cody Worsham, was completely spontaneous. “Clearly every fan in the building knew every word,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. Sadly, the Gators would lose the game, 17-16.
“I Won’t Back Down” was the first single released from 1989’s Full Moon Fever, Tom’s first solo album (though, notably, many members of The Heartbreakers played on the record.) Tom’s career spanned decades before and afterward, and his fellow rock and roll artists – from Bruce Springsteen to John Mayer – all paid tribute to the man considered one of the greats.
Awesome Moment: Florida Gators fans honor the late great Gainesville native Tom Petty by singing along with “I Won’t Back Down”. pic.twitter.com/WuO7fwgXDV
— Dylan (@DylansFreshTake) October 7, 2017
— Florida Gators (@FloridaGators) October 7, 2017
Tom’s song took on a whole different meaning in the wake of the deadly Las Vegas shooting. Jason Aldean, 40, who was on stage when Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire into the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, made a surprise appearance at the start of the Oct. 7 episode of Saturday Night Live. “You can be sure that we’re going to walk through these tough times together every step of the way,” the country music star said while holding back tears. “Because when America is at its, our bond and our spirit, it’s unbreakable.” From there, Jason and his band broke out into a heartfelt version of “I Won’t Back Down,” honoring those who died in Las Vegas as well as Tom Petty.
What did you think about the Gators’ tribute, HollywoodLifers?