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Mincey, a 6-4, 265-pound defensive end from Statesboro, Georgia, believes that an offseason in which there wasn't a single incident that resulted in the arrest of a Gator player has made a tremendous difference in attitudes and the way that teammates look at each other.
"Off the field reflects everything and that's what makes a team," said Mincey Monday afternoon after the Gators first practice. "We didn't have anybody get in trouble and that's built everybody's pride and confidence because now we can say we believe in each and every one of those guys because they're not going to be out getting in trouble."
Just how does off the field calm translate into on the field production? Mincey says team bonding, peer pressure and feeling the pride of living right instills a sense of accomplishment and trust that is unlike any other he has experienced here at Florida. It wasn't that way when he arrived in Gainesville after two years at a Kansas junior college. For one thing, there wasn't a great sense of camaraderie.
"I'm going to admit to you I didn't hang around a lot of guys when I got here because Florida football was all about being selfishness," he said. What brought about the change was the way that Coach Urban Meyer treated the players from day one. There was far less talk about football and far more talk about getting personal houses in order so the players could be better in the classroom and good examples off the playing field.
"He taught us a lot of moral lessons, more of them than football in fact," said Mincey. "When he came in here it was more about becoming a better man."
Mincey admits that expectations were high last year when Florida began its third season under the guidance of Coach Ron Zook, but expectations gave way to disappointment. There were distractions off the field and on the field there was a certain lack of discipline that showed up in critical moments. Fourth quarters generally weren't very kind to the Gators.
Now the expectations are high once again, but this time they are high because of the level of confidence and trust teammates have built with each other by adhering to the Gospel According to Urban.
"Coach Meyer is more specific about being a better man," said Mincey. "He really cares for you in your personal life and that pushes you to be the best man that you can be. You're scared to let him down."
With a team full of guys striving to be better men, the Gators had as quiet an offseason as there has been in the 99-year history of Florida football. There weren't arrests for drunken and unruly behavior downtown. There were no ongoing fueds with frat houses that created an unhealthy edge.
Instead of taking their aggression downtown the football team channeled it in the weight room and in conditioning programs. Players took the time to spend with each other and friendships were formed where there were none before and the bond among all players grew tighter as the summer progressed.
"Coach Meyer came in here and changed the whole motto," said Mincey. "He doesn't care about who's the strongest or the fastest. He's just going to put whoever works the hardest and whoever earns trust like a brother on the field. If we all trust each other as brothers, then we can go a long way on the field."
Pushing each other in the weight room, the Gators had an outstanding summer according to strength and conditioning coaches. Mincey discovered that as players took the time to really push their teammates, attitudes began to change and where there was once selfishness, it was replaced with a sense of trust.
"I think we achieved a lot of trust," he said. "We all got better in the weight room. We got better because we pushed each other. I think the trust issue with the team is a lot higher than it was last year."
There were also those dinners at the house of Coach Greg Mattison, the Gators co-defensive coordinator and Mincey's position coach. The time that Mincey and his fellow defensive linemen spent at Mattison's home helped teammates see each other in a new way.
"Like I said about Coach Meyer, Coach Mattison is the same way," he said. "We are all like a big family. We go to his house and eat dinner and we just do a lot of things to interact with each other. When you build that relationship with your teammates, when you look beside you during the game and you say 'man I'm playing for my boy here.' That is going to push you to play harder and harder."