Degory says toughness and leadership is new theme

Toughness and leadership continue to be the overriding summer theme for the Florida football program under first year Coach Urban Meyer. Just ask All-Southeastern Conference center Mike Degory. The Palm Bay native is an strong advocate in what is being labeled, The Meyer Principal.

"Coach Mick (Marotti) and his staff have brought a toughness aspect to it (Florida's summer conditioning program)," Degory said. "We also cover speed, strength, agility, and other things, but relative to all of that is toughness. Everything we do has a toughness aspect to it. Hopefully, it will pay off this year. It's Coach Meyer's idea and the strength staffs' idea to bring a little toughness to the team. I think that is one of the things we lacked last year. We were always an athletic team, but maybe we didn't have the killer instinct. I think through working out and gaining some toughness, we'll be a better team. We're looking forward to putting those ideas into motion."

The Gators lost four games in the all important fourth quarter, including giving up 16 points to Tennessee in the Vols 30-28 come from behind victory. Finishing was often talked, yet rarely walked. Florida spent far too many games holding onto leads instead of punishing opponents.

"In years past, we worked hard too," Degory said. "I think that Coach Meyer has brought more of a competitive edge to every drill, not neccessaily just the mat drills. It was definitely a time of team building and I think that we got a lot out of that. We've worked hard. He put the competitive edge to it, and I think that drives you a little more. There's winner and a loser. You never want to be a loser."

Leadership holds yet another key to the Gators success. Only seven months on the job, offensive line Coach John Hevesy is still in the process of getting to know his players.

"We've seen our offensive line coach a good bit more than in years' past," Degory stated. "But, I also think that comes with the fact that they are still trying to get to now us. I like our offensive line coach. He's a great person. I've already developed a relationship that is comparable to before. I don't think (they're looking over our shoulders). Hopefully, I'm not a guy they have to look over the shoulder for. Maybe for some people that is what they're trying to do. But, I think deep down they're trying to get to know us person to person and as a player."

That leadership has rubbed off on several players, including quarterback Chris Leak, who seemingly preferred to lead by example. The junior has improved that aspect of his game as well.

"Chris (Leak) would rather trade being first team post season with first team pre-season," he said. "It'll be a little bit of motivation for him. You guys only see him on Saturday. I see him the rest of the week and what he does as far as team building and leadership goes as far as anything he does on Saturday."

Degory came to Birmingham to offer up a more complete version of Urban Meyer and the Florida program. The 2004 National Coach of the Year has won the hearts and minds of Florida players and fans with his brimming enthusiasm and confidence. Degory notes that the team has become inspired by excited fans.

"You guys see the focused side of Coach Meyer," Degory added. "But when the suit and tie are off, he jokes around with us and has fun. He's positive. He's not cocky. You've got to be confident to be where he's at. He makes you excited because he is so confident. But I think confidence breeds confidence, and hopefully that's going to be the difference this year. I can notice that there's twenty thousand extra people at our spring game. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. We start to feel that momentum starting to swirl and we get excited. The fans are more excited. Hopefully, that can be throughout the season."

"I'm not much of a poker player, but I've got all of my chips on the table. My only goal is to win. I've totally committed myself. I've got everything out there. I just want to win."

I don't get the feeling Mike Degory would catch us in a bluff.

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