Dustin Doe's Commitment To Florida Is Rock Solid

JASPER --- The small town politics that have cost Coach Mike Pittman his coaching job at Hamilton County could propel neighboring Live Oak (FL) Suwanee deep into the state football playoffs in the fall. Because Hamilton County still doesn't have a football coach for the fall, Dustin Doe, who recently committed to play football to Coach Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators, will be taking his game across the Suwannee River this year.

Pittman, best known for winning four straight state championships when he was the coach at Suwannee back in the 1990s, will still be teaching in Hamilton County in the fall, but he and his staff have been dismissed by a new superintendent of schools in a very unpopular dispute that has long range ramifications for the Trojans' football program and the school situation in the entire county. Pittman grew up in Jasper. In his four years as the head coach, the Trojans made the playoffs three years and there was a significant upgrade in the academics of his football players. But, he won't be coaching this year due to a decision by the first year school superintendent.

The Hamilton County football program is still in a state of flux. Rather than deal with the turmoil, Doe and several of his teammates will be moving over to Suwannee County. Known as "Duke" to Pittman, teammates, friends and family, Doe is a 6-2, 212-pound package of muscle who hits a ton and runs a 4.57 40-yard dash.

With a 3.5 GPA and 21 on his first attempt at the ACT, Doe is an achiever either in the classroom or on the athletic fields. He's also no stranger to hard work. He's spending the summer working at the TNT Fireworks store in Jennings, near the Florida-Georgia line. Pittman, who owns the store, keeps him in a constant sweat but even though he's always hauling around big boxes or helping to carry out a large purchase of fireworks to someone's car, you'll find Duke always polite and always wearing a big smile.

Pittman will tell you that Duke is the most reliable kid he knows, whether it is playing football or working in his store. The old coach will tell you that if you had a team full of Dustin Does, you'd probably never lose a game.

"He is a great competitor and team player," Pittman said. "He is a class act and a big time hitter. He likes to hit He is one of the most competitive kids I have ever coached. When the chips are on the line, you will be able to count on Dustin Doe."

Although TNT Fireworks was the busiest place on the Florida-Georiga line on the Friday before July 4, Pittman was more than happy to take time away from his business to talk about this young man to whom he is almost a surrogate father. While Pittman gushes about his young protégé, Duke is uncomfortable talking about himself. He is, however, willing to talk about what he expects of himself when he steps on the playing field and what he wants coaches to see when they watch him play.

"I am the type of player on the field that is selfish because I am always trying to make the play," he said. "That is just the way I am. I want to help my team any way possible. If coach tells me to play nose guard I will … if he says tackle, I would play tackle. I am ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. I am very aggressive. Last year I had a bunch of backside tackles. I like to use my speed, because speed is the key to the ball game. If you have speed, you will be victorious."

If he had one word to describe himself in the way he plays every down it would be "aggressive."

Doe committed to the University of Florida on a camp visit a couple of weeks ago. What some don't know is that this June 4 visit was an All-Star day at UF with some of the most well-known high school football players in the nation attending. Doe was an invited guest. He had such a good time on that visit to Gainesville that he came back the next week to participate in one day of Coach Meyer's camp. People who were there say that Doe just blew the socks off every coach in attendance.

"The camp experience was great … I got to see a few of the coaches in action and meet with some of the other top players in the state of Florida," he said. "I also met with Jevan Snead. He had recently committed. I talked to Coach Meyer and got to know him a little bit better, Coach (Charlie) Strong as well. I like Coach Strong. He doesn't seem like the type of coach to put players down. He is always real positive and motivational and that is why I can see playing for him."

While at the Florida camp, he met one player who epitomizes all the things that he likes about the University of Florida. Durham (NC) Southern's all-world offensive lineman Carl Johnson committed to Florida on that Junior Day. Doe and Johnson really hit it off.

"I went to the Junior Day and I was there when Carl Johnson committed," he said. "He is a real nice guy and down to earth. He wants to play and that is what I loved about him. Sitting there talking to him, I can imagine playing on the field with him. He's a real anxious type player. When a player is anxious, that means they are hungry and they want to go get it. With someone like that on the team it will be great."

There were others who came away from Florida highly impressed. Doe made friends with a lot of them, but there are a couple with whom he's maintained close contact.

"I spoke with (Zephyrhills (FL) athlete) Bryan Thomas and (St. Augustine (FL) cornerback) Jacques Rickerson at the junior day," he said. "We talked about how the coaches are real down to earth and the players. They spoke real highly of the University of Florida."

The Florida visit opened his eyes. Not only did he meet the kind of players that he enjoys hanging around with and could envision himself playing football with the next few years, he could see himself on the Florida campus, living the life of a student who is preparing himself for life after football. He saw enough that he left Gainesville believing that the University of Florida will be the right place to spend the next 4-5 years of his life.

"The University of Florida is real prestigious for academics," he said. "Coach Meyer told me that when he recruits, he is looking for three things in a recruit. First of all he wants to know what type of person they are. Second, he wants them to be good academically. Third, what kind of player they are. To me, that was just outstanding, because he is recruiting good people and not people that just want to be good players. He is recruiting people that want to get their degree, and I admire that."

When he committed, Doe had offers from several big time football programs. Georgia, Louisville, North Carolina, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, and Tennessee all had offered but the visit to Florida made him realize that this was his best fit.

"Growing up I was a big fan of Georgia and Florida State," he said. "When I was a freshman and talking to Coach Pittman, I told him I wanted to go to the University if Georgia. Over the years, I learned that it isn't about favorites but where I fit in best.

"FSU didn't offer me and that's okay. If they offer now, I am a Gator and that is where I am going. The deal with Florida State … I was going to wait it out. It was going to be Florida, Georgia, and Florida State. Florida and Georgia are two somewhat similar programs, but why go four hours when I can go 45 minutes away. My mom is a big family type person. When she went to the University of Florida she just fell in love with it."

For any Gator fans worried about Doe breaking his promise to attend the University of Florida, they need not worry. He just isn't that type of person for one, and two, his coach and surrogate dad, Pittman, says it won't happen

"If one of my kids makes a commitment, he is committed," Pittman said.

So Gator fans, rest assured that on February 6, 2005, the fax machine will be ringing off the hook in the offices at Ben Hill Griffin stadium and Dustin Doe's signed scholarship will be one of the first to arrive. This dynamite kid belongs in the orange and blue.

NOTE: We received a videotape of Doe's highlights and should have them up shortly.

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