If the SEC’s 10-game, conference-only football schedule holds, the Florida Gators will be back in action Sept. 26. The league’s announcement came after the team finished its first week of summer ball walkthroughs – complete with masks in the kind of July heat that is only amplified in landlocked Gainesville – after missing spring workouts due to COVID-19 concerns.
In these times where everyday activities are altered, most people try to look to what they know to regain a sense of normalcy.
“Normal” to tenured Florida football players is walking up to neon orange tables after practice to pick up a cup of Gatorade. But with only a week of practice under their Jordan-brand waistbands, the freshmen are still learning the college game and what it’s like to be a Gator. They cling to “normal” just through playing football.
That’s definitely the case for freshman linebacker Derek Wingo. He probably never expected his first summer of college football to look like this, but ball is ball, and a season is on the horizon. It doesn’t hurt that his mother, Carrieann, finds her own sense of normalcy in being a football mom.
“She loves to watch me grow,” Derek explained to Sports Illustrated - AllGators. “But she doesn’t just want to watch. She wants to be there to experience it with me. She’s always been there for me. [College] is just the next step.”
Carrieann Wingo is the kind of football mom who helps raise a team. She’s been called “Mamma Wingo” by Derek’s teammates since his high school days at football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, and it’s a role she takes seriously.
While the Gators wrapped up their final practice before enjoying a four-day weekend, Mamma Wingo wrapped up 250 freshly baked cupcakes for the team.
“Sometimes, sweets just make people happy,” she said. “No matter what is going on or how bad things may be, there’s just something about a beautiful cupcake or sweet treat that makes people happy and smile just by looking at it.”
And, oh, were the Gators happy. Player after player lauded Mamma Wingo’s baking skills on multiple social media platforms, along with head coach Dan Mullen. No surprise there, because all homemade cupcakes are pretty much good cupcakes, right? Until you see the pink and blue logo on the packaging that reveals Carrieann is a baker, and the cupcakes were probably delicious.
Baking 250 cupcakes from scratch is undoubtedly a task. But evoking joy in Derek’s team makes it worth it to Mamma Wingo. To her, it’s just another day of being a football mom.
“To actually see that reaction is priceless knowing you were able to, if only for a short minute, give someone that feeling,” she said. “Those guys work hard and give everything they have to make every component of the program successful. It is an amazing feeling to be able to give them something back.”
As the ultimate stamp of approval, Derek’s appreciation for his mom’s sweet-in-all-ways gesture ran deep.
“She loves it,” he said. “She feels like she’s part of the family. She wants to meet the players and have a relationship with them and just be involved in any way she can.”
And it certainly can’t hurt to start your freshman year known as the player whose mom bakes post-practice cupcakes.