Gresham Knew UF Was Where He Should Be

There was that moment during his official visit to the University of Florida when Daryl Gresham was sitting in Urban Meyer's office. Meyer was talking about being the one percent of the one percent and every word he said was sinking in. Suddenly, Gresham didn't hear a thing. He felt a rush in his mind.

"I just knew that this was where I'm supposed to be," said the 6-3, 255-pound middle linebacker from Roanoke (VA) William Fleming. "I was sitting there in Coach Meyer's office talking to him and he was telling me about his dream to come to the University of Florida and coach the Gators to a national championship. I started thinking about how I used to watch tapes of my dad playing basketball for the Gators and how it was a dream of mine growing up that I would be a Gator someday. You know, dreams rarely come true but this is a dream that I had for a long time and as I'm listening to Coach Meyer, I saw it right there in front of me and something said just take it."

At that moment, Gresham knew that he was going to be a Florida Gator. He made the commitment to the Gators then on National Signing Day back in February, his name went on the dotted line to make it official. Since that day he's been working in the weight room and particularly on his agility to prepare for his arrival on the Florida campus. More than anything, he wants to arrive in Gainesville in shape and mentally focused on getting his game ready to compete at the next level.

"Coach Meyer told me to come down there in shape with the mentality to fight for a position," Gresham said from his father's home in Atlanta. Daryl Sr., for those of you who don't remember, played basketball for the Gators and Coach Norm Sloan back in the 1980s.

The getting in shape part has been grueling yet at the same time, it's been fun. As Daryl has worked out with a trainer, getting stronger and faster while improving lateral mobility, he has learned things about himself that he didn't know before. Always a hard worker, he has never been afraid to give a little bit extra whether it is in the weight room or on the playing field. This summer, however, he has discovered the fun of pushing himself well beyond what he thought were his personal limits.

"I've learned what it's like to push myself until I just can't push anymore," he said. "I've learned that when I get to that point where I think I'm unable to go that I can push a little harder and go a little further. The challenge has been to push it a little harder each time."

As an incoming freshman he knows that he has to expect the unexpected. Unlike a lot of highly touted high school stars who have concluded that they have already cornered the market on football knowledge, Gresham knows he's just beginning a learning process.

"This is a different level with different levels of expectations," he said. "Some player who can dominate on a high school level get to the next level of play and find that they can't do it or they aren't as good as they thought they were. I don't have all the answers. Coming into this level of play I can't tell you how good I can be … all I can do is come to Gainesville in the best shape of my life and literally be a sponge, absorbing everything they tell me and putting it into play.

"I have to learn the schemes, learn to read the offenses and learn how the defense reacts to the offense in certain situations. There are certain things that come second nature on the football field already, but there are so many things I have to learn so that those things become second nature, too. There is so much more about the game that I have to learn."

It is that willingness to learn that combines with Gresham's instinctive abilities as a linebacker, making him a legitimate prospect to see time as a big, physical presence in the middle for the Gators even as a true freshman.

"I think I am a player who has a lot of potential and I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to realize my potential," he said. "I also think that I am willing to learn and I consider that a strength."

While hard work is part of his daily regimen, he doesn't lose sight of the fact that football is a game and it has its funny moments, too. For Gresham, there was that time against Allegheny when he was a junior that he will never forget.

"There was a fumble somehow," he said. "I don't even remember how the ball popped loose but next thing you know this guy … he's huge, at least 6-4 … maybe 380 … and he's tucked the ball away and starts running. This dude is coming at me and I just went as hard as I could and hit him. We collided and he just fell to the ground one way and I fell to the ground the other way. I'm laying there on the ground and looking over at him and I mean, he's huge, even laying on the ground … and I just started laughing and I couldn't stop. It was like some scene out of a cartoon."

Playing tight end against Williamsburg, he had a chance to knock a linebacker into next week. The play was designed for the tight end to pull and lead the tailback through the hole. A Williamsburg linebacker smelled the play out and was moving into the hole when Gresham arrived.

"I just stuck him hard," he said. "I knocked him back hard and his mouthpiece went flying one way and his ear piece just fell to the ground. I reached down and picked up his ear piece and handed it to him as he was going back to the huddle. I think he felt like he'd been hit pretty hard."

It was that reputation for being fundamentally sound, a hard worker and a big hitter that got him his chance to be a Florida Gator. The final piece to the puzzle was when Meyer began talking to him about being the one percent of one percent.

"How many guys who are football players get a chance to go to a school like the University of Florida where the academics are among the best in the country?" he said. "How many guys who are football players get a chance to combine what they want to do, which is play football, with getting an education like you can get at the University of Florida?

"That's what was going through my mind when he started talking about being that one percent of one percent. I got down to the campus and I knew that this is where my heart is. This is where I wanted to be and I wanted to be here because it is a dream come true, but also for all the reasons that Coach Meyer was talking about. Just walking around the campus, standing there and looking at the stadium and then hanging around the players and the coaches … everything fit for Florida. Coach Meyer started talking about how Florida was his dream and I knew it was my dream, too. I knew in my heart that this is it."

Daryl Gresham will arrive on campus in another few days. He won't let his mind be clouded by anything that he's been told by anyone else. Instead, he's arriving with the idea that there is work to do and things that have to be learned.

"I'm excited about coming to Gainesville and I hope I'm ready," he said. "I've worked hard for this and I'm coming in ready to work even harder."

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