Friday Came Early for Morrison

It didn't go down exactly how he had planned, but the Florida Gators couldn't be any happier when Bolingbrook (IL) middle linebacker Antonio Morrison gave his pledge to the staff Tuesday morning. Bolingbrook head coach John Ivlow glows about his tenacious defender and thinks the Florida Gators got a great player and that Florida is a great fit for him as well.

For Antonio Morrison, he wanted time to reflect on his decision to be a Gator. He called the Florida coaches early Tuesday morning and let them know that he was indeed excited and would be playing his college years in Gainesville. But, sooner than he anticipated, the news leaked out and there has been this gap of information ever since. Gator fans should be thrilled to hear from Morrison's coach about the commitment, but also just what kind of person and player he is.

"He committed on Tuesday and just wanted to wait on Friday to make an announcement," Ivlow told FightinGators.com "I think his dad kind of let it out because he was excited. I just know he is glad it is over."

Ivlow, who has been to Florida for a week a few years ago says that Morrison had nothing to dislike about his decision to be a Gator.

"He liked everything," the excited coach said about his star player. "It was the atmosphere and the coaches did a great job of selling themselves and the program. He likes the attention and likes to feel the love and definitely felt a lot of love from Florida."

The Gators need a big middle linebacker and at 6-3 and 220 plus before his senior year, he definitely fits that bill. Ivlow loves the opportunity that Morrison has.

"They have him pegged for middle linebacker and I think that is a great fit for him because he can hit," the coach said. "A lot of kids will make the tackle, but they won't run through you. This kid just loves the contact. He has that extra hip roll that you don't see very often. It is something that you usually don't perfect it until a you're a junior in college."

When asked to describe his monster tackler, Ivlow had to pause for a moment and think about it.

"I don't know how to explain him," he said then paused. "He is a smart kid and academics are very important in his life and his parents did a great job with that. First impressions with him… he wouldn't pass. You would probably run from him. He has the braids and the tattoos and he's built well, so people automatically think this kid is a thug. But that is wrong."

"He is one tough kid, but he is a lot smarter than he shows. He has a 3.2 GPA and about a 22 ACT. He is very sharp and a good kid. When I say tough I don't mean he beats up ladies, he is just a physical kid and everything he does he is passionate about it… everything to do with preparing for a game whether it is game planning, conditioning, weight lifting, practice…we had to hold him out of the last two practices. He is absolutely passionate about football."

Ivlow played three years in the NFL with the Bears and 49ers and throughout his playing days and his coaching days, he hasn't seen many or any like Morrison.

"He's a lot more physical," the coach said of anyone he can remember back in the days he played ball. "I remember being in high school and I look at him and think that there is nobody that could hang with him when I played in high school. There aren't a lot that can hang with him now. When I played we had big stocky guys and now it is all about speed. He doesn't look like any of them. He can hit and cover the pass and he is one of the best high school kids I have ever seen."

The Gators made the trip all the way up to Illinois to secure their linebacker and that is something that just doesn't happen very often. As it turns out, they had more than a few reasons to visit the school and connections to the coach.

"I played with Bryant Young when he was at San Francisco," Ivlow said. "Charlie Weis was at Notre Dame and one of the first days he got the job there, he was in our building recruiting. Frank Verducci was at Northwestern when I went there.

Ivlow even spent a week in Gainesville a few years ago while the previous coaching staff was coaching at Florida. He also talked about more connections he has to the Florida program.

"Urban Meyer was the receiver coach at Colorado State when I was in college," he said of the school he transferred to from Northwestern. "Billy Gonzales was a teammate of mine at CSU. Rich Tuten was a strength coach at Florida and was mine at Denver. Shane Matthews was my roommate in Chicago when we were rookies and we have kept in touch for quite a bit."

Ivlow likes the new Florida staff, even though he hasn't had a chance to meet Will Muschamp, the new head coach at Florida.

"Obviously Coach Muschamp knows his stuff and is well respected around the coaching community," he said. "Let's see how it goes for him, I am excited for those guys."

And for his old friend in San Francisco, Bryant Young who was the point recruiter for Morrison, Ivlow had some great things to say.

"He is a great guy and always had a nice level head," Ivlow said. "I will be honest with you. He hasn't changed much from when I knew him. He came into my office a couple of months back near the end of recruiting season and he hasn't changed a bit. He's a good guy."

Chalk one up for the good guy.


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