Obviously coaches have to put a lot of faith in prospects when they sign. The Gators decided to take on two highly touted players that both had off-the-field issues. The Florida staff examined things carefully with both and decided that four-star receiver James Robinson and three-star running back Adarius Lemons were prospects that were going to do the right things.
“Obviously, as in all players, the important thing is you do your research and your background (checks),” McElwain said. “My guess is there (are) a few people in this crowd right here that have some regrets on things they've done, and yet at the same time take responsibility for it.
“Here is the good thing: We get an opportunity to be involved in (Robinson’s) life. We get an opportunity to help him move forward, as we do all the players on this team. I'm excited about him being a Gator.”
“I think there was a lot of misinformation out there, as somebody I think alluded to about negative reports. It just blows me away sometimes as far as what is actually said and what is real. Yet that's okay. I mean, everybody deals with it.
“You know what? We're excited that we're going to be a big part of helping him, as we do all our players.
While talking on the podium, Lemons’ Letter of Intent arrived via fax and McElwain shared the news that he was added to the class. Lemons got in trouble in the offseason and missed the entire season because of it and had to transfer schools. Since then, with the dangling carrot of a scholarship to Florida as a prize, he cleaned up his act and the staff made the move to go ahead and take him.
“I'm proud of him,” McElwain said of Lemons. “When you go through things, you can just say, ‘Hey, I quit’. You're talking about some guys who got something to 'em, some distance, guys who have really committed to getting themselves ready.
“In some of the cases obviously there's still some work to do. Yet, you know, he's not the only one that's had some tough things go on. There's a lot of guys that are coming in that have had some things.
“The key is not feeling sorry for yourself, not using that as an excuse, but rather let's use it as an avenue, really a drive, to go up and do something great.”
“Note one thing: As soon as you start throwing stones at somebody for making a mistake, look in the mirror and see if you've ever made one yourself. Yet the most important thing is knowing he's going to have a great support system here, as all our players do, to help him be successful and learn from different things that go on. He's committed to that, as are a bunch of guys on our team.”
“The guys on our team… they can tell you we truly care, more than just if you can score touchdowns. We have a lot of guys that haven't even ever played that are learning a lot and are given a chance to be successful and grow in life. Ultimately, that's what it's all about.”
Fighting the Negativity…
Jim McElwain and the staff have had their fair share of negativity expressed toward them not only from the national media, but from the Gators fan base as well.
McElwain said he was aware of the pressures that come with the job when he arrived on campus, because he heard it from coaches that were here before… some that left on their own and some that didn’t.
He also says that he understands that people have a passion for Gator football and that somehow that passion in different ways.
“I think the biggest thing is to understand that every coach that has been here before me has told me that, all right?” he said about the negativity of the fan base at times. “They're aware of it. In fact, might have driven a couple out. That's okay. That's all part of it.”
“As you know, even being around our guys, being able to affect the people around you in a positive way is really what it's all about. That's what our team does.
“No one can ever control, again, what is out there. Yet here is the good thing. Something's out there. People do care. They're passionate. How they maybe show their passion...
“I got a lot of people I know that they really get their kicks out of just being negative. There might be a few out there.
“At the same time, for every one of those, there are multiple people that are really excited about what we're doing and what we're building. As you see the direction of the administration, what they're allowing us to do in moving forward, has been nothing but positive.
“There's no doubt the negative piece out there is something you always have to battle, yet we're not the only staff that's ever had to battle that either.”
McElwain and the staff are aware of message board banter and the negativity derived from that at times. Not him, but people on staff do read the boards and bring it up at times. He takes solace in the many fans that reach out in a positive way.
As I said, the amount of even letters, old-school, handwritten letters we get about the positive things we are doing, the direction we are headed, really outweigh all of that,” he said. “Yet, we love to harp on the negative. It's human nature. We're harping on the positives. We got a lot of really good things going on.