Reggie And Avery: Friend Helping Friend

Daytona Beach's Avery Atkins and Melbourne's Reggie Nelson grew up just 78 miles apart but they have discovered in the short time they have been on the Florida campus that they have much in common. They are two of the fastest Florida players who just happen to be pushing each other to make a significant contribution at the same position. Their fast friendship is helping them make the adjustment to Division I football much easier.

Call it fate. Call it destiny. Call it God's blessings. Atkins and Nelson both fought through academic issues to enter the University of Florida. For Nelson, the journey was long and required a two-year hiatus to Coffeyville (KS) Junior College. For Atkins there were those agonizing weeks when he waited word from the NCAA Clearinghouse that he would be allowed to enter the University of Florida. For both, the wait was troubling but their perseverance has paid off and now, neither one will ever take being a Gator for granted.

"It was a big relief ... I mean, it took so long for me to get here," said Nelson. "But, patience is everything though. You've got to take the time and everything will come to you. It (his tears, upon finding out he qualified) was just a big relief to make my Mom proud and stuff to get here and do what I had to do. It had been two years. I'm just happy to make my Mom proud and stuff.

"It was a big smile (on my face). It stayed up for a couple of days. I woke up smiling. I probably was smiling in my sleep. I was calling all of my high school coaches when I found out. They were saying ‘congratulations, go ahead and finish your future. I'm proud of you, that you stuck in there.' That was a hard thing for me to do to go to Kansas for two years, leaving my family."

Things were a little different for Avery Atkins. Like Nelson had done at Palm Bay, Atkins won a state championship at Mainland. Like Nelson, he was considered by many to be the best overall football player in the state. And yes, he celebrated when word came that he had indeed made it.

"When coach told me (that I got the test score) I couldn't really say anything," Atkins said. "I just grabbed the phone and called my parents and let them know. Everybody was on the phone crying and stuff. I had worked hard and knew that I was going to do it, but I wasn't sure if the NCAA (Clearinghouse) was going to do. At one time, I was feeling crazy about the whole thing. I was feeling desperate, but desperate in the way that I wanted somebody to help me, to tutor me for the test. I was (afraid that I might have to go back home). I knew that I had worked hard. I put God first, and with God first, anything can happen.

"Reggie and I were on the same page working hard to get here. Sometimes, we would just sit back and think about those moments. That's another thing that allows us to work harder."

Reggie Nelson and Avery Atkins high five on another at practice

Two of the most humble, humorous, and generally likeable players that you'd ever want to be around are signed, sealed, and finally, delivered. Now both are taking their friendship further and pushing each other on the field, so that they can make Florida talent rich at the all-important cornerback position.

"Basically, we (Reggie and I) both ask each other questions," Atkins said. "Like I ask him how I did on a play or he'll ask me if he was good on a play. We give each other feedback on what we had just accomplished. We're definitely pushing each other. For example, I had made a couple of bad plays and he'll get on me, 'C'mon man, tighten up. We've got to do this.' Having somebody in the same boat as me really pushes me more than another player pushing me."

"Avery Atkins is a good man," Nelson said. "We hit it off really well when we first got here from Daytona. I didn't know much about him, but the more that I've got to hang around him and get to know him, I like him. He's a good person on and off the field. That's what I love about him."

* * *


"It's a big difference switching positions, coming from strong safety back in the secondary pressing up on the line," Nelson said. "It's pretty much the same thing, you just have to go out and play football and make plays. I still have stuff to prove. I haven't really played. The workouts have been hard. I'm back in the heat, you know. I really haven't played in the heat in a long time.

"We (Avery and I) talk about the nickel and other stuff. they've got me switching out playing corner and nickel."

"I came in with the right mind set," Atkins said. "That's what Coach (Urban) Meyer told me to do. The physical differences from high school to college are very different. As you know Chad Jackson and Andre Caldwell are very physical and very strong receivers. It's great to be able to work against them, because to be honest, I don't think that we're going to play any receivers that are going to be more physical than those two.

"Working out this summer (with the other players) helped prepare me," he continued. "Before I got here, I was working out on my own. When you work out alone you don't really get the full effect of things. When I got here it pushed me and motivated me to work harder.

"I need to work on technique. We basically covered most of them when I was at (Daytona Beach) Mainland, but there are a couple more that coach likes us to do. Working on the press up, that is the most important thing that I need to work on. But, as of now, I'm doing a lot better at it."

Fightin Gators Top Stories