Meyer has made the comments about living life the right way on a regular basis throughout the spring and at every Gator Gathering, but Monday night he let it be known that there will be some weeding out of players who aren't willing to measure up when it comes to character issues.
"It might take a year or two to clean things out," said Meyer, a comment that drew a loud ovation from the Brevard crowd. Meyer said that there is room for only one kind of player at the University of Florida and that's the one who understands that he has a job to go to class, to live his life right, to get a degree, to help the team win championships and to do everything he can to develop as a football player so that he have the best possible chance to one day be a top choice in the NFL draft.
"We do not have to take chances ever on character issues at the University of Florida," he said. "Never again will that happen."
Meyer told the group that "if you hear only good things this summer… things like character, leadership, work ethic … then get ready for a season that could be very special." He also said if there are problems that have plagued the program in the past, then the season could be very average.
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Meyer said that Florida can be that "one team in the country that every other school wants to be like because of the discipline, the style, the wide open offense and defense, the special teams… because of our 27,000 students who help us pack that stadium with Gator Nation out in full force …. There's no question we can be that one school."
Meyer said that there are other schools that would like to be like Florida in that respect --- and he took a small jab at the School Out West --- but "they don't have the things we have. They just don't have it. We can be that one school that has it all."
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Meyer has begun a kind of tough love policy with the Gators. Tough love means there isn't a lot of sympathy for players who make excuses because they miss classes or make mistakes during drills or in practice. He said that the "touchy-feely" policies that have become prevalent in society won't be found at the Florida football offices.
"If you don't go to a class because you broke up with your girlfriend," said Meyer, "don't come and expect a hug and say 'don't worry, there's other girlfriends out there.' That's not going to happen. I want to know why you didn't go to class? What's happened at the University of Florida and other places is that you lose close games. Why? Well maybe the ball didn't bounce that way. I'm so tired of hearing that. You make the ball bounce your way. Well, how do you do that? You do it right. No stupid penalties. You take care of the football and in the fourth quarter you try to score."
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Back when he was an assistant coach at Notre Dame, Coach Urban Meyer was in charge of recruiting the big center out of Melbourne's Palm Bay High School. Meyer knew Mike Degory was special and he did everything he could to convince him to sign with Notre Dame.
"Four years ago, probably five, I went to Palm Bay High School and fell in love with this big center, this big old ugly center," said Meyer. "He's still big and he's still ugly! So he came up to visit in South Bend, Indiana. I had him come up in the summer because the other nine months of the year it's not a very pleasant place to be. I made a comment to him, being the arrogant recruiter that I was at that time. I told him you're coming here (Notre Dame). I told him I bet you a hundred dollars you come to Notre Dame."
Degory led Palm Bay to the state 5A championship and then signed with Coach Steve Spurrier and the Gators, turning down overtures from Notre Dame and most every top Division I program in the country. He redshirted his freshman year and has started at center for the Gators the last three.
When Meyer accepted the Florida coaching position back in December, he got a phone call from area code 352. Not knowing who was calling, he answered and a voice on the end of the phone said, "Hey Coach, this is Mike Degory. You owe me a hundred dollars!"
Meyer said he thought quickly and told Degory he would love to pay him but "NCAA rules say I can't pay you the money."
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Meyer welcomed former Gators Dr. Doug Ferguson and Robin Fisher. Fisher is a State Farm agent in Titusville.
Fisher said that only Charley Pell made the ex-Gators feel welcome to come back to UF.
"You know what, this is the first time since I've been gone in 20-something years… first time since Coach Pell's staff welcomed us back … and it's kind of great to be asked to come back home and the fun thing is I'm going to take him up on it," said Fisher. "I went to the spring game for the first time in I don't know how many years and it was really fun."
Meyer said that not only does he want the former players to come back, but he wants them to observe practice, in particular the players playing their old position.
"I think when a former player comes back and he played a certain position he has an entitlement to come back and watch that position practice," said Meyer. "He also has the entitlement to grab a player who played his position by the arm and say we expect more of you than this."
Meyer revealed some of his plans to honor the former players, whom he says have every right to expect to be treated extremely well when they return to UF. There will be a barbeque for the former players about a week before the first game. Meyer plans to use that as a time when the former players can mingle with the players on the 2005 team. He's hoping that there will be a bonding between the two groups and that the old Gators will feel free to pass on advice.
The Wyoming game on September 3 will see the beginning of a tradition that Meyer expects to be carried on at every home opener.
"The first game of the season we will have all our former football players form a tunnel and all our players will run through it," Meyer said.
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Talking about next year's team, Meyer said that Gavin Dickey is in the running to be the backup quarterback but he will also see action as the number five wideout.
Meyer said that the first team offensive line of tackles Randy Hand and Lance Butler, guards Tavares Washington and Jim Tartt, and center Mike Degory will be very good but he remains concerned about the second unit. He did say that second team center/guard Steve Rissler is a "good player and he's ready to help us" but that the others are freshmen who will have to grow up fast.