JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It is the first day of 2013, so let the games begin!
The Gator Bowl at Everbank Field will begin around noon and you may see a familiar face on the field. He was a stand out player at Nease High School and now plays on the defensive line for Northwestern University.
It's number 89, Max Chapman.
Chapman's parents still live in Ponte Vedra and they say they are beyond excited to see Max play in his hometown.
"After the game there are so many people, I didn't know these people, congratulating you... great play, great play your son made! It just brings you up to here," says Stanley Chapman raising his arms," you get so proud."
When Stanley Chapman talks about his son Max, he beams with excitement. Before Max began playing for the Northwestern Wildcasts, he was a star player at Nease High School.
"He was always in the backyard with a ball in his hands," says Stanley Chapman.
Stanley and Dana Chapman know every play and every highlight by heart. They have stacks of DVDs and a wall of photos of all four of their children. Max is the youngest, but being born at 11 lbs and 6 ounces, Dana says he was always a big boy.
Now Max is now 6'3" and 230 lbs.
"When all those college offers started coming in it just felt so unreal, I mean I just couldn't believe it," says Dana Chapman
Max got 24 offers, but it is the Northwestern letter that hangs on their wall.
"He is just a great kid, we are so proud," tells Dana Chapman through tears.
But football is only one part of Max, his parents say he is also a loyal friend, strong in his faith and a good student. Max's family proudly wears number 89 because they are simply his biggest fans.
"I was there yelling and cheering and I looked around and everybody was already sitting down," tells Stanley Chapman with a smile, "and that is sort of what Max does for me, I am the last man standing for him. He is a great kid and that's what it is like to be his dad."
Nease High School has another player on the Northwestern Wildcats as well, Hunter Bates, the son of Dallas Cowboys player Bill Bates. Unfortunately, due to an injury Hunter Bates will not be able to play in the Gator Bowl.
Across the field on Mississippi State's team, Darius Slay of Brunswick, Georgia, will be playing defensive back. First Coast News reached out to media relations at Mississippi State to try and speak with Slay's family as well, but we did not hear back from the department in time for this story.
It is safe to say there will be a lot of hometown pride taking the field during the Gator Bowl.
First Coast News