Gainesville, FL (U-WIRE) -- That old UF saying, "If you ain't a Gator, you're Gator bait," has applied to many outsiders.
But not this one.
George Edmondson Jr., better known to Gator fans as Mr. 2-Bits, has been an avid Gator football follower since the late 1940s, and although he did not attend UF, he has made it his own alma mater.
As the university's unofficial mascot, students have come to expect the lively 83-year-old cheerleader to liven up the crowd before every Gator football game.
But students may want to savor his pre-game pep rally, as Edmondson said this season may be his last.
"I plan to retire for good soon," Edmondson said. "Maybe after this year."
Retiring the 2-Bits persona would usher in the end of an era for many: For the last 56 years, Edmondson has not missed a single opening game.
And for 56 years, Edmondson has worn the same signature outfit during every cheer.
"People ask me why I don't wear a blue or orange shirt," he said. "It's because nobody would recognize me."
The university made him an honorary alumnus, while fans made him the focal point of game-day kickoffs.
Edmondson's love of UF started in September of 1949, when the then-27-year-old attended the UF-Citadel game.
"The Gators were terrible back then," he said. "We had a lousy team, but they were just kids out there trying to play a game."
Edmondson said he got mad when Florida fans started to boo their own team. So he began to lead the cheer that eventually would give him his nickname.
"Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar," he shouted. "All for the Gators, stand up and holler!"
The cheer kept expanding, and it wasn't too long before everyone started calling him Mr. 2-Bits.
But before he was known for his cheer, Edmondson was a student at The Citadel.
In 1942 just after his freshman year, he withdrew from college to serve in World War II as a Navy pilot in the South Pacific.
When he returned in 1945, Edmondson worked as an insurance salesman in New York City and eventually in Tampa, where he now lives.
On Nov. 14, 1998 at the UF-South Carolina game, Edmondson retired Mr. 2-Bits.
The following year he was asked to come back and make a cameo appearance at the pre-game show. Edmondson said he had a hard time sitting in his seat, so Mr. 2-Bits returned.
"I did retire, but I didn't quit," he said. "If Michael Jordan can come out of retirement, so can I."
But the Florida sun is becoming too much for him, he said, and he does not want to risk falling down and injuring himself.
"Oh, I'll still come to the games," he said. "But I'm just going to sit in my seat and watch them like everyone else."
Edmondson said there will be no replacement after he retires, making it known it's impossible to replace Mr. 2-Bits.
"I never planned it would grow to what it's become or that it would work out the way it has," he said. "It just happened, and it's been a lot of fun."
(C) 2004 Independent Florida Alligator via U-WIRE