GAINESVILLE -- So, picture this. Florida wide receiver David Nelson is sitting in the ballroom of a cruise ship last spring break when the ship's master of ceremonies announces to a crowd of about 600 people that "none other than the MVP of the BCS national championship game, Florida quarterback Chris Leak, is floating toward the Bahamas on this very cruise ship."
This, of course, was news to Nelson (pictured), at the time a no-name Florida wide receiver. He was taking the cruise with some friends from back home Georgia way and had no idea Chris was taking the same vacation. "Chris is on this cruise? No way. He never told me..."
Then, out of nowhere, the ballroom's spotlight zeroes in on Nelson.
"Chris Leak, ladies and gentlemen," says the M.C.
Applause, cheers, whistles, Gator chomps, etc... Just imagine, honey, Chris Leak on this very same cruise with us. It sure is a small world. But...I thought he was shorter.
"I was sitting at my table and had no idea what was going on, Nelson said. "I looked up and my eyes were hug. Everyone just gave a standing ovation. At this point I can't be like, 'No. I'm not,' so I just stood up and waved and sat back down."
Nelson (6-5 compared to 5-10 Chris Leak) is totally freaked out now. What to do? Go along or disapoint? Go along, of course. After all, what happens on a cruise ship stays on a cruise ship. Or so I'm told. "It had HUGE benefits," Nelson said.
"Word spread fast," Nelson said. "Not everybody eats at the same time. As soon as I left, there was a waiting line of people that had their cell phones saying that Chris Leak (pictured) was on board. It was amazing because not everyone on that ship was from Florida. There were a lot of Arizona and California people. There were people from everywhere because it was spring break. Most of them were college students, so it was amazing to see how many of them knew football and how famous [Leak] is nationwide."
Ah, nothing quite like impersonating a national celebrity on a spring break cruise ship full of college co-eds. Did we mention yet about the "HUGE benefits?"
Pretty soon the case of mistaken identity turned into an all out gag. Nelson (Leak) was a star. Autographs, photo opps, the captain of the ship even invited Nelson (Leak) to the bridge.
"I had a lot of people offer to get me things or buy me things," Nelson said. "I guess I was just the most popular person on the ship. Everywhere I went people were taking pictures of me or shaking my hand and telling me good job on the season."
Now, it should be pointed out that this was not the first time someone thought Nelson was Chris Leak. The guy just has one of those got-to-be-famous faces that you know you've seen somewhere but just can't place it. Like when the Florida football team was watching a highlights video during its annual Night of Champions. Tiger Woods popped up on the screen and just about the whole team burst into laughter. "They were rolling," Nelson said. "The way he talks and walks -- they were just giving me a hard time about it. [Florida linebacker] Brandon Spikes just calls me Tiger Woods now. He doesn't even call me my name anymore. I don't even think he knows my name anymore."
Just like Nelson nearly forgot his own name back on that cruise. But it's tough being Chris Leak.
"For the rest of the trip I just had to try and play damage control," Nelson said. "People would come wanting autographs. With little kids I didn't know whether to say I'm not Chris Leak and embarrass the kid, or just sign it and tell Chris later."
Nelson actually did sign autographs as Chris Leak. He says he just scribbled a few unreadable words each time. Imagine: Some kid is going to grow old with a phony Chris Leak autograph. Maybe he'll pass it down to his kids. Pretty soon it will be one of the sports world's most infamous pieces of sports memorabilia. Maybe, 200 years from now, it will be worth $10,000 on PBS' Antiques Roadshow (pictured). Maybe O.J. Simpson will steal it.
The gig was up, finally, after nearly three days. Some Florida fans called him out. It's not like Nelson defended his Chris Leak-ness when challenged. Nothing wrong with being David Nelson these days either. He told the ballroom's M.C. to make an announcement to everyone about the mistake.
"It just got to the point where some people who actually went to Florida, some students that I didn't know, were kind of upset by it," Nelson said. "I wasn't trying to do anything or hinder Chris' reputation. I wasn't trying to act like I was Chris Leak by any means, but there was just so much going on that I was overwhelmed by it and I didn't know what to do."
Reporter: You should have said you were Tim Tebow.
Nelson: "Yeah, I may have been able to drive the boat. They may have thrown the captain off and let me drive it."