Friday Night Lights was a mini-camp held under the bright lights of The Swamp. Although the stands weren't packed as they would be for a Gator football game, the atmosphere was made as game-like as possible. The normal intro for a Florida game on the jumbotron was followed by the replay of Florida's 20-13 victory over FSU in Tallahassee last year. The noise level was ratcheted up by loud hip hop music and tapes of crowd noise from UF games. Unquestionably, it was the loudest atmosphere ever for these high school kids.
Up until a few days ago, the 6-6, 280-pound Gilbert wasn't even planning on visiting Florida. When interviewed by Gator Country at his home last Tuesday, he said that he had eight favorites, but two of them --- Florida and Auburn --- hadn't made an offer. He already had offers in hand from Florida State, Miami, Oklahoma, LSU, NC State and Georgia. He decided that he would make the trip to Gainesville for the weekend and he's glad that he did.
"It was great, I liked it a lot," Gilbert said. "It was the best campus I have been to so far. It was nothing but positives and I am glad it worked out."
Even without an offer in hand, Gilbert was sure of himself on the visit. The coaches wanted him to just come up and see what was going on.
"Doc (Coach Holliday) told us (Gilbert and Aquinas teammate Sam Young) not to work out, just to show up and see how it is," he said. "The stadium stuff under the lights was really different … I don't think any other school has done that."
On Saturday, some of the recruits who stayed overnight watched a morning workout by the Florida football team and then they attended a picnic at the UF recreational site on Lake Wauberg.
"They had a picnic and we went out with the football players at a lake," Gilbert said. "I met a lot of players and a lot of offensive linemen. I remember meeting Drew Miller and Tate Casey. I would rate the visit a ten, it was really good."
Gilbert got to meet one-on-one with some of the coaches on campus. He appreciated the extra effort that some of the coaching staff seemed to be giving to him and his teammate.
"Coach (John) Hevesy is a really good coach," he said. "He stayed around afterwards with Sam Young and I and showed us a lot about strategies and blocking techniques and other stuff. Coach Meyer is a good coach and explained everything about how he runs his program."
This one was a long time coming for Gilbert. He was very happy about recounting his experiences over the weekend, and with very good reason.
"I got a scholarship offer," he said. "I still have the eight schools, but Florida is definitely number one. My parents always wanted me to go up there too, they really like that campus."
Marcus Gilbert is one of the three big time offensive linemen at Aquinas. He was the third to receive an offer, but no less deserving. It will be interesting to see over the next few weeks if the Gators are able to maintain the momentum they gained during this weekend.