November 14, 2017
Bill Wood is 2017 ‘Saluting Those Who Serve’ Mr. Two Bits
Wood was a track standout for UF coaching legend Percy Beard in the early ’50s.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Bill Wood got the call, he was dumbfounded, staggered and stunned all at once.
“You’re kidding, right?” Wood shot back. “Don’t mess with me.”
Wood’s son, Kevin, was not messing. William “Bill” Wood, once a star of the University of Florida track team, had been chosen to be the honorary “Mr. Two Bits” before Saturday’s Florida-Alabama game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, part of the Gators’ annual “Saluting Those Who Serve” celebration. After his time as a long-distance standout at UF, Wood enlisted in the Marine Corp.
Bill Wood and wife Dot have been married 64 years.
Now, he’s 87.
When George Edmondson, the original “Mr. Two Bits,” did his famous chant for the last time in 2008, he was 85 years old. That means Wood will become the eldest of the three dozen or chosen since the celebrity tradition was kicked off for the 2013 season.
“We’ve talked about it,” Kevin Wood said. “Dad’s knees are kind of bad, even though he plays golf twice a week and has shot his age five times. But I’ll be down there on the field with him. If he needs me, I’ll walk him out there.”
Wood will have about 35 family members to assist him, if need be. In his day, though, Wood used his legs to burn up the tracks in the Southeastern Conference. As a standout distance runner for UF Hall-of-Fame coach Percy Beard (yes, as in Percy Beard Track). Wood ran the half-mile, mile and 2-mile, winning SEC titles and setting school and league records in the latter two races on his way to being named Florida’s 1952 Male Athlete of the Year.
After graduating with a degree in forestry, Wood joined the Marines and was stationed at Camp Lejeune, where he mastered the manuevering of amphibious tractors during the Korean War. Wood was discharged in 1954 as a captain.
In time, Wood settled in Alabama, alongside his wife of 64 years, Dot, and their two children, but the family never abandoned its Gator roots, despite being surrounded by Alabama and Auburn fans. Wood also never strayed from the disciplined ways instilled in him by the country he served so honorably.
Instead, he passed them on. To his kids, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
“He raised us by the book,” Kevin said. “Taught us respect.”
And now that respect will be reciprocated Saturday afternoon on Spurrier/Florida Field. Not just for Wood, but for and all the veterans to be honored for their service.
“I know it’ll be a special day for him,” Kevin Wood said. “It’ll be a special day for all of us.”