For Sanders, The Visit Was Off The Charts

Saturday afternoon, all the reasons that Terron Sanders chose the University of Florida came to life when parents and recruits had a question and answer session with Coach Urban Meyer and several Gator players in the film room in the south end zone of The Swamp. Meyer spoke first and then turned the microphone over to his players who spoke passionately about the Gators and the direction in which the Florida program is headed.

(Terron Sanders profile)

More questions were probably asked by parents than by recruits. Some of the questions were pretty simplistic but some were tough and pointed, requiring thoughtful, complicated answers. Any doubts and any fears were instantly erased and when it was over, Terron Sanders was ready to run through the nearest brick wall if that's what it took to be a Florida Gator.

"I've never been so fired up in my life," said the 6-2, 295-pound defensive tackle from Bradenton Southeast who committed to the Gators back in the summer when he was offered a scholarship after a lights out performance at the Florida football camp. "This was my dream school all my life … to be there, hearing these guys and Coach Meyer talk about Florida and you can feel how passionate they are about the Gators … well, this was letting me know my dream school was my right school."

This was the official visit to Florida for Sanders. He was in Gainesville for some football games back in the fall including Florida's 34-7 shellacking of FSU in The Swamp, but even the excitement of that night when the Gator Nation erupted couldn't touch what he experienced during his official visit.

On a one to ten scale, this visit was totally off the charts.

His host for the weekend was freshman defensive end Daryl Gresham, who impressed Sanders and his parents with the way he was so knowledgeable about the campus and Gainesville. He patiently answered all the questions and made everyone feel quite at home.

"Basically, he spent the weekend refreshing my memory of all the reasons I chose Florida in the first place," said Sanders. "I thought if this is the kind of guy who's going to be my teammate, then I've definitely chosen the right school."

During the weekend there were the usual visits with coaches, trainers, strength personnel, academic counselors, tours of the school and of course, some fun with future teammates, but the best part of the trip was that Q and A. Not only was Sanders so completely impressed with everything and everybody, so were his parents.

"It was important for them," he said. "They're so happy that I'm going to go to my dream school but for them to sit there and hear Coach Meyer talk … and guys like Tavares Washington and Brandon Siler … and to have all their questions answered.

"They left there knowing that this is a coach they can trust, that my future teammates are the kind of guys they want me to be hanging around with and that the coaches and players are so tight … .I mean it's a real family … well, this is what they needed to know and it's especially great for them because they're only two and a half hours away. Close enough to see me when they want to and to get up here to see me play and far enough away that I'll have my space and my chance to grow up."

Coach Meyer began the session by emphasizing that Florida wants football players who have two goals: to play for championships and to leave the University of Florida with a meaningful degree and a head start in the game of life.

"He told us that this is the place to be if you want to be all you can be as a football player and get a great education," said Sanders. "He said if we would come here with an attitude to dedicate ourselves to play football and earn a college degree he would guarantee us that while we're at Florida, (1) we'll have fun competing for a national championship and winning championship rings; (2) that we're going to play at the highest level of college football in the SEC and (3) we're going to get a top notch education that's going to get us started on the way to a better life.

"He told us straight. He didn't hold back anything."

Meyer turned things over to players like Tavares Washington, Brandon Siler, Dallas Baker, Tate Casey and Tim Tebow. They all took turns talking about their own Florida experience and how the coaches at UF have made this a special environment.

Washington set the tone for the session when he took the microphone. Washington became a leader by deed and word as a senior in Meyer's first season at the Gator helm back during the fall. He's passionate about the university, Meyer and the Florida football program.

"He told us that are already committed and those who are still thinking about being Gators that if we want to be Gators, welcome to the family but if we don't want to be Gators … if we have any doubts about it at all … then the Gators don't need us. He said the Gators need players who want to be here and who want to do things the way Coach Meyer wants to get them done. Man, it was powerful. The hair on my neck and arms was standing up."

Siler took over and Sanders immediately understood why everyone on the team looks to him as a leader.

"He could be president someday," said Sanders.

He was moved by Baker and Casey, too, but perhaps the icing on Sanders already very sweet cake was hearing Tim Tebow talk. Tebow is part of the 2006 recruiting class that Sanders will officially join on national signing day in nine days. The quarterback from Ponte Vedra Beach Nease is considered the jewel of a class that's rated the best in the nation and when he spoke, Sanders said everybody was listening.

"It's hard to imagine that this guy has only been here on campus for two weeks," said Sanders. "He talks about winning and being the best and he does it in a way that's not big-headed at all. A lot of guys who have accomplished a lot less than Tim Tebow have big egos but this guy doesn't have an ego and yet he's the kind of leader that you want to follow.

"I haven't seen a lot of film on him but I saw the stats. I don't have to watch any film to know he's everything they say he is. You can tell by the way he handles himself. He's cool, composed, laid back … you can talk to him and it's like you're talking to your brother or your best friend. When we ate, Coach Meyer asked him [Tebow] to say grace and he just stood up there and prayed and it was great. You can tell he's got the faith and it's just natural for him."

When the Q and A was over, it was off to Lake Wauberg for fun and a cookout. That's where Pig Baker's baby ball python was introduced to Coach Steve Adazzio, who coaches Florida's tight ends. Baker had the python wrapped around his wrist but when it came time to eat, he put the snake into a pillow case and put it up above the table in a gutter..

"When we finished eating he [Baker] got it down but there had been some water in the gutter so in pulling it down, water got on Coach Adazzio," said Sanders. "Coach Adazzio said 'what's in that bag' and we said 'it's a snake' and he said 'there's no snake in there … you guys are trying to pull something on me.' Well when he saw there really was a snake, he just shoots down the balcony there at Lake Wauberg. You would think he could run a marathon, bad knee and all, the way he took off. We all laughed until we couldn't laugh anymore."

This was the weekend that Terron Sanders hoped it would be. He grew up a Gator fan and always wanted to play football at the University of Florida. Step one on his journey was during the summer when he committed to the Gators immediately after he was offered a scholarship. Step two was when he felt the energy of the sellout crowd at The Swamp when Florida smashed FSU. Step three was this past weekend when he took his official visit.

The next step of this journey will be late June when he reports for Summer B. He's been rehabbing a knee that required surgery but he's ahead of schedule on the rehab. He's already power lifting again, getting himself into the kind of shape that he hopes will allow him to get into the mix for early playing time as a freshman.

"I can't wait to get to school in June," he said. "I'm ready to get there. I'm ready to be a Gator."

He's been waiting for this moment all his life.

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