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Florida Gators Online "Insider" Exposed As A Catfishing Fraud

In the world of following college sports on the Internet, it's not uncommon to find several people within each fan base who claim to be "insiders." They may not work for the program or cover the team on a daily basis, but they proclaim to have close tie-ins and valuable info that is exclusive to them thanks to those connections.

In some cases, when these anonymous insiders are boosters, former athletes, or relatives of current players, they actually can possess some keen insight and provide informative nuggets for other fans. 

Then, of course, you can have the total opposite of that, which is when the "insider" turns out to be a complete fraud. That's what well-known Florida Gators fan and Twitter user @ClutchLIkeMJ turned out to be. 

According to his Twitter bio/persona, @ClutchLikeMJ was a rich kid named "Ryan Bryant" from Destin, Fla with connections to Hawaii and Ohio. He was active online, interacting with fans, recruits and media members and cultivating a sizable following.

"Ryan" created the popular #GatorGang hashtag and passed himself off as someone in the know, even forming a message board and charging readers up to $100 per year for access to his information. He also sold t-shirts, and allegedly racked up nearly $50,000 in sales from those two endeavors.

Here's a photo of star UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves wearing one of "Ryan's" shirts.

Alas, it was all a sham. As time went on, several Gator fans became suspicious of "Ryan's" secretive nature, and his unwillingness to ever reveal himself and meet any of them in person. An intrepid group of UF supporters began to do some digging, and what they found was shocking.

"Ryan" wasn't Ryan at all. Through a reverse phone search and some further investigation, it was determined that "Ryan" was actually a gentleman named Neal Cool. Incredibly, Cool had not only created a false identity, but ripped photos from another man named Drew Walker, who actually lives in Ohio.

This entire scenario is absurd, especially when you consider the number of levels of deception going on here. Real people got ripped off for real money, and this scam went on for a pretty long period of time. 

Earlier today, "Ryan" deleted his Twitter account after posting the following apology message.

"First and foremost I want to apologize for deceiving all of you. I will address this further at a later date, but I wanted to let you know that everything you read tonight is true. I won't go into detail about why I did what I did. The personality behind the account is real. I may not have been forthcoming about my appearance and name, but everything else is true."

Who knows what Neal Cool's motivation was for acting out this convoluted and costly fantasy. Luckily, he was exposed before more people were duped.

[Sporting News]