Coach Drayton took time from his busy schedule Thursday morning to talk with Gator Country. This is Part I of the interview:
1. From your playing and early coaching days at Allegheny College to the University of Florida, once a Gator always a Gator?
I'm telling you now. It is holding true. I just never understood how a small school in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania could take on a Gator mascot. I used to ask, "Where did you guys get the mascot Alligators?" And they just said, "Well it kind of rhymes." So I was like "okay?" It is kind of funny because I just talked to some of those guys from Allegheny and they said, "Wow, you're a Gator all over again." I said, "Yep, always a Gator."
2. Talk if you will about getting in on that intense final few weeks of recruiting at UF.
That was rough for me because I was the last guy hired. The relationships I built there were for recruits for Missisippi State. We were really in the thick of things here by the time I got here. The coaches that were already here developed their relationships with the kids interested in Florida. All the kids that I was recruiting for Mississippi State had either made their commitment to Mississippi State or we weren't recruiting the same kind of kids. Nothing really carried over from a talent standpoint from what I was recruiting at Mississippi State as opposed to Florida. Really I got here and got involved with what running backs were being recruited, the Antone Smiths and those kind of guys. I kind of just traveled along or tagged along with Doc Holliday or whoever I needed to help at that point to help recruit their kids. Home visits and things of that sort. I kind of really got in late in the game to have a big effect on a particular area or particular kid.
3. Tell us about the offensive staff and how everyone is working together to put the offense in?
It is awesome. What you have in this staff here is Coach Meyer, Dan Mullen, Billy Gonzalez, and John Hevesy --- those guys have been together forever. Steve Addazio has a connection with Dan Mullen and Urban Meyer from the times when they were with Syracuse and Notre Dame. It is all intertwined. Where I come in, where I fit, is I was with them for a brief stint at Bowling Green. So, we all know each other and this is like a big reunion. As far as a working relationship there are no secrets. Everyone knows what to expect from each other. We all know each other's personality. It is going to be awesome. It really is going to be the best situation I have ever been in with regards to that. We are not wasting time trying to figure each other out. We can get right into coaching football. Any time when you can get right into a situation and just talk football and already know what is being worn on that man's sleeve you are at a huge advantage.
4. The word on the street is that it will be a one back offense. Will there ever be a blocking or lead back?
Yes there will be. That is the beauty of this offense. It is going to be about the personnel of this football team, and the scheme will adjust to this football team. You can't just lock in and say I am going to be this way on offense. If you have the personnel that will make you a better team to bring another back in the backfield, or bring a tight tend or whatever it may be, an extra blocker, to have success. We are going to do that. That is the beauty of Coach Meyer's thinking. He is going to always do what it is to win ball games. If it takes that we are going to do that.
5. How does Florida rank in terms of academics, facilities and the chance to be one of the very elite programs in all of college football with some of the other schools where you have worked or coached against?
It is by far the best academic situation and the best football situation, that combination that I have ever been a part of. I have been at Villanova and that has a tremendous academic reputation. They play some really good football and have had some players come out of there and play professional football. But, when you are talking about the highest level of athletics and you come in here and figure out what this academic situation is all about, there is no question by far, this is the best situation I have been a part of.
6. It seems that everyone loves Sylvester Croom. Will you talk about Sylvester the coach and also Sylvester the man? How tough was it to leave Mississippi State?
From a career standpoint it wasn't very tough at all. Just understand this. Coach Croom and I have a relationship that goes deeper than just football. He was a man that when I went to the NFL at the age of 29, here I am just skipping around the Green Bay Packer office and I have a key to Lambeau Field. I almost lost a sense of reality there. He was the one guy that said let's understand the business that you are in right now. He was the only one that pulled me aside and said this is what you need to do to continue to progress as a coach at this level. I have had the utmost respect for that man ever since then. I kind of look at him like a father figure. In that respect it was tough to leave that relationship because I know that man had my best interests in mind. I know he wanted to develop me into the best coach I could be in his eyes. Anytime you get around someone like that in this profession, you just hold on. A lot of people put the blinders on in this profession and take care of themselves and he was beyond that. Coach Meyer is like that too. He really is. He is into the betterment of his coaches. That made the transition that much easier. When you have a guy like Sly Croom, who has been in the NFL for years, been a coordinator, has the status and demeanor about him and integrity about him that he does, it is really tough to leave that.
Stay tuned for Part II...