Rainey Brought the Lakeland 7 to Florida

Ahmad Black liked what Florida had to offer when he came out of Lakeland High School but growing up a Florida State fan made him unsure. Constantly in his ear was Florida running back Chris Rainey, who ended up being the reason seven players from Lakeland signed with Florida. Without Rainey in their ear, it wouldn't have happened.

"I remember Coach Meyer asked me if I wanted to come here," Ahmad Black said, "and I had Rainey sitting behind me in my ear saying, 'Yes, you want to come.' The whole period of time I had Rainey telling me and the Pounceys to come here. Rainey played a big factor in me coming here."

Black wasn't the only Lakeland graduate who grew up cheering for the Seminoles. Mike and Maurkice Pouncey did the same. In fact, the Pounceys committed to Florida State as sophomores in high school.

That didn't keep Rainey from being in their ear, too. If anything, it made Rainey's recruiting pitch even louder.

"They committed early (to Florida State), so I wasn't too sure if they'd stay committed or not," Black said. "When we all committed here and started coming to games, we all just fell in love. From then on, it was all about the Gators. Coming here to a game really won us over."

Rainey didn't have ideal size at Lakeland, but he still put up record-setting numbers. Black doesn't remember Rainey having multiple offers until late in his high school career, and the reason centered around how vocal he was about being a Gator.

"I remember Rainey probably had three scholarship offers coming out of high school, and everybody always used to wonder why," Black said. "I always said that it was because he told everybody he wanted to come to Florida."

None of the Lakeland players remember why Rainey grew up rooting for Florida, especially since Black and the Pounceys grew up cheering for Florida State. Black does have one theory.

"I think he probably has stock in Gatorade or something," Black quipped.

While Black grew up watching Florida State play every Saturday, he waited throughout his high school career for a scholarship offer. It never came.

"I was too small and too slow to go to Florida State," Black said with a smile.

The Gators offered Black, even though he seemed destined to play at LSU. Black ended up committing to the Gators early one morning, and the Pounceys followed later that afternoon by committing to head coach Urban Meyer.

"It was the fan base," Black said. "I've been getting questions about what I'm going to miss the most, and that's definitely it. It's just how the fans are here, and the environment we have in The Swamp."

With only one regular season game remaining in his college career, Ahmad Black hasn't lost to Florida State. The Gators boast a six-year winning streak against the Seminoles, and it is still talked about between the team this week.

"It's talked about," Black said. "I don't want to be the team to lose it. It's a pretty big deal here."

The shortcomings this season weren't a part of Black's expectations for his senior season. A four-loss season and missing a berth in the SEC Championship Game haven't dampened the mood of the team going into this weekend's game.

A win over Florida State would be exactly what the seniors wanted. It wouldn't erase the memories of the season, but it would make it easier to leave college knowing they never lost to the Seminoles.

"I don't know if it would make up for everything, but it'd definitely be a good thing to go there and beat them," Black said. "It would say a lot about our program."
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