Versatility. If you were looking for one word to describe redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers’ role in the Florida Gators offense, that would be it. And Showers’ versatility was on full display in Saturday’s season opener against the Toledo Rockets.
Showers made the switch to running back just a few weeks ago while the team was still in fall camp. At the time he was battling it out for playing time at safety with Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman, a battle Maye ended up winning. There was a lack of depth at running back, with Matt Jones out with a viral infection, so the coaches asked him to make the switch. Showers took the move in stride and looked more than comfortable during Saturday’s game, finishing with two carries for 31 yards, four catches for 23 yards and even contributing a tackle on special teams.
His new role is comparable to that of former Gator Omarius Hines, another versatile player who played wide receiver, tight end and running back throughout his career (2008-12). In his best year, as a senior, Hines totaled 23 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns, and 20 carries for 159 yards and two touchdowns, numbers Showers could easily surpass. Although Hines is bigger than Showers, 6-foot-2, 217 pounds versus 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Showers offers something a little extra. He has top-end speed that allows for a potential big play every time he touches the ball, such as the 29-yard run he broke off against Toledo.
His success Saturday probably came as a surprise to everyone but Showers. In high school he was a star running back who played a little bit of defensive back on the side. As a junior he rushed for 1,572 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was even better as a senior, rushing for 2,204 yards and 29 touchdowns and added 18 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
Showers is a rare athlete that brings something to the Gators offense that it has been missing for quite some time: creativity and excitement. If he continues to produce like he did Saturday, his versatile role in the offense should only expand.