Speaking to the media before talking to the Polk County Gator Club on Wednesday, Jim McElwain was asked about the draft results of his Gators. It was a special draft that saw eight Gators get drafted including five in the first two days or top three rounds of the draft.
While McElwain didn’t recruit any of these, a great deal of their maturation as players and people happened under his watch and he is rightfully proud of their accomplishments. Two players that were either in the draft or signed a free agent contract also earned their Bachelor Degree from Florida on Saturday. Safety Marcus Maye (2nd round, African American Studies) and receiver Ahmad Fulwood (free agent, Telecommunications) completed the double whammy over the weekend.
McElwain, as he often does says he is equally as proud of the graduates because what they achieved will last long after football is over.
“I was just excited for those guys to be able to go show who they are,” he said of the guys that were drafted. “And you know here is the great thing about last weekend, not only that group of guys has a chance to fulfill a dream, right, you grew up as a little kid (wanting to play in the NFL), that’s something special. And yet there is another group of guys on that same weekend that walked across the stage and shook the president’s hand and got a diploma from the University of Florida. What I do know having coached in the National Football League, (is that) no one plays this game forever. That degree is really what ultimately is going to change it for you. I’m proud of those guys as well and that’s what’s exciting.”
Maye was drafted high in the second round by the New York Jets and had to make a decision a year ago whether to come back or not for his senior season. It appears that the decision paid off for him as well as first rounder Jarrad Davis who was the first Gator selected, going in the first round to the Detroit Lions.
“I think him coming back really helped him from that standpoint, you know Jarrad Davis as well,” he said of Maye and Davis. “A guy that chose to come back and obviously went in the first round and that is something that is well deserved. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of those guys and what they invested in the Florida Gators and gave to us and helped us to be successful. You know, here is the great thing, those guys are going to give back too, and that’s what’s good.”
McElwain legitimizes Pineiro’s 81-yard bomb…
Earlier in the week, junior kicker Eddy Pineiro tweeted a video of an 81-yard field goal attempt in practice. There was no snap and no human holder, there was no defense trying to block it. But, it was impressive nonetheless.
Pineiro has always been one of McElwain’s favorites to talk about.
“I heard about that and it was actually something he did back in spring ball,” he said. “I don’t know how long it went. It took so long to get out there. It was real. There wasn’t any doctoring up the yard marker whatever. We didn’t do it on an arena field or anything like that. But he has a strong leg there is no doubt about it and yet he enjoys that. He works at his craft and that’s what I like. He is a guy that just enjoys doing it and you know that becomes infectious with the guys around you, you know all the team, because he is always out there working.”
He was careful to state that all this fun stuff doesn’t count for a hill of beans compared to when he faces the pressure of doing it in a football game.
“It’s the real deal,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter what he does on YouTube videos, what it matters what he does when we are playing on Saturdays. That’s what matters.”
Asked to put a limit on the distance he would allow Pineiro to kick from, McElwain didn’t have a number.
“As long as it takes,” he said. “That guy can boot it.”
Opener versus Michigan will let him know where his team stands early…
Florida opens the 2017 season in Dallas against the Michigan Wolverines. It isn’t the typical opener the Gators play against a directional school in front of 90,000 frothing Gator fans that haven’t had football for nine months. This will be a real test against one of the better coached teams in America with equal talent.
McElwain says that there are areas of the team where some young guys that have never played will have to see the field in that game and that is the biggest hurdle this team faces heading into the season.
“Number one is the biggest challenge is indoctrinating all of the young guys in how we go about and the way we go about our business,” he said. “We’re going to need some help from some young guys obviously. Our youth level, although very talented, there’s not a lot of experience. So, growing up quick is probably going to be the biggest thing.
“That’s what I really like about playing this Michigan game. You know we’re going to know right off the bat and there’s no messing around. There’s no playing my daughter’s elementary school that she teaches at in the first game. We’re going to come out in the first game and really find out who we are early, and then make the corrections that we need from there.”