Life

Entire Football Stadium Sings ‘I Won’t Back Down’ As A Tom Petty Tribute

What a fitting way to honor Gainesville's beloved musician.

Music lovers were shocked and saddened by the death of Tom Petty at age 66 last week. His hometown fans in Gainesville, Fla., immediately started a petition to have a statue of the musical icon erected in his memory and a mural tribute to Petty has also been spotted in the area. This weekend, football fans also joined in to pay homage to the beloved rock star.

At the Florida Gators-LSU Tigers game on Oct. 7, a whopping 90,000 fans sang the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song “I Won’t Back Down.” With lyrics like, “Well I know what’s right, I got just one life / In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around, but I’ll stand my ground,” it makes not only a great football anthem but a fitting tribute to Petty himself.

Petty once worked as a groundskeeper at the University of Florida before he became famous and played on the campus twice after that, according to the Florida Gators website.

“Let’s celebrate together what he meant to the world of music and what he meant to this community,” Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said in a statement on the site. The statement also suggested that perhaps a new tradition was born that day.

Social media lit up when the tribute was taking place:

The moment was also live streamed, so you can watch it in full here.

Despite becoming a world-famous musician, Petty never forgot his Gainesville roots. In 2006, he told NPR’s Terry Gross about his experience growing up in the town near the university.

“I was in the redneck, hillbilly part. I wasn’t part of the academic circle, but it’s an interesting place because you can meet almost any kind of person from many walks of life because of the university,” he said. “But it’s really surrounded by this kind of very rural kind of people that are—you know, they’re farmers or tractor drivers or just all kinds of—game wardens, you name it. So it’s an interesting blend.”

You can watch the original music video for “I Won’t Back Down” below: