We talked to his father today. Don Garner is the running backs coach for the Mainland HS team and has been a high school coach in Mississippi and Tennessee before coming to Florida. On his son he offered, "He's been a Gator since he was born. When we lived in Tennessee, he would go to these Tennessee – Florida gatherings before the big game, and he was the only one wearing Gators gear. Afterwards, he was the only one smiling."
We asked what Jonathan might need improvement on and Coach Garner added, "One of the things he's been working on is foot speed. When he is good and ready he probably runs a 4.8 and he needs to improve on that and the consistency along with his start up speed. What about his strengths? "The third ball game last year he separated his shoulder and he played the whole season. So he is a real tough kid and he's highly self motivated kid. He likes to exceed and just really likes to win. He has started for his teams since the 7th grade and we have had some really good football teams. I think Jonathan's leadership is a really big part of him. The kids really respond to him and he has a lot of poise and makes good decisions. We've been blessed with his ability."
On throwing the ball Coach Garner adds, "He's gotten a lot stronger since his shoulder has healed up. As a matter of fact the Miami and Ohio State coaches came in and said ‘We had no idea that he had that much arm strength.' I told them that he just recovered from injury and is now able to throw again. He's a little deceptive on his throwing speed, and now his arms and legs are getting stronger since he has been working out."
According to his father, Jonathan has his head in all the right places. He is a spiritual leader as much as a leader on the field. "He's a real good Christian young man - he's very faithful at attending church and that drives his life."
Garner is about to unleash a bullet pass at the Rising Senior Camp.
We had the opportunity to talk to Jonathon while he was in California for the camp as well as enjoying himself on the beaches there. He was gracious enough to take a few minutes out of his routine to talk to us.
We asked him about his roots as a Gator fan since his father said he was a lifelong Gator: "I have always had family that lived in Florida and they were always into Gator stuff. So when I started watching football I started liking Florida," said Garner.
Was it just a matter of waiting on a Florida offer? "Yes sir." How did the offer come about? "I talked to Coach Zook the Sunday right after camp in his office. He told me they waned to offer but they needed to talk it over with the whole coaching staff that night and to call him in the morning. So I called them in the morning and they said they had an offer for me, and I committed right then."
What did he like on his visit to Florida earlier this month? "The coaches -- they are really great guys -- they know what they are doing football-wise and they are real ‘people persons'. The team seems to be real close and they are a real hard working group, The facilities are just great."
Coach Locksley has been recruiting Jonathan for Florida and also, "I've been getting hand-written letters from Coach Zaunbrecher all the time."
When asked about his college expectations, the consummate team player answered, "I just want to be the best quarterback I can be and any way I can contribute to the team is great with me. If I am a starter then great, second string, fine. As long as I am doing my best I will be happy about that." As far as someone he patterns his game after, "Probably Peyton Manning."
Jonathan told us he isn't planning on taking any more visits, but had some good things to say about the other schools that were high on his list. "Stanford, I was real high on, Coach Teevens and Coach Cubit are great coaches and know a lot about the game. They have a great campus and great academics and stuff. Miami has great coaches, is a great school, and they win consistently. Ole Miss and Memphis were both schools that I really felt comfortable at and they were really quarterback friendly offenses."
What things are important to him outside of school and football? "I am really big into my faith. Wherever I go I always big into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and I am going to try and be a witness to everyone around me. Along these lines we asked him if he ever met Danny Wuerffel, "No sir, but he was my favorite college quarterback."
I would be remiss if I didn't ask Jonathan the status on his teammate's commitment. Last week we were really happy to announce for Gator fans that Avery Atkins committed to the Florida coaches. We called and had Avery himself confirm that he was committed. Jonathan's take on it, "He's committed. I think Avery was misquoted, because he talked to me the other day and told me he was real upset at what he was reading. Him and I both want people to know that he is committed to the University of Florida."
Jonathan Garner is a rising star. Battling through injury last year he helped his team to a state title. His arm strength is coming around and finally the people he wanted the most to take notice started doing so. The University of Florida is lucky to have the verbal commitment of this very talented quarterback. He will be a great asset to the University of Florida during the recruiting process and throughout his college career.