Dustin Doe: Character Really Does Count

We have heard it ever since Coach Urban Meyer became Florida's coach, how he looks at character first, long before he counts the stars after a prospect's name. The Florida Gators just signed the top recruiting class in the nation according to Scout.com so talent is obviously abundant. According to Coach Meyer, there is an abundance of character in this class, too.

(Dustin Doe profile)

Meyer believes that his players should live right on and off the field and that they should be great ambassadors for the University of Florida, representing the entire student body and setting the example for the incoming athletes. When Dustin Doe of Live Oak's Suwannee County High School signed with the Gators a couple of weeks ago, Florida not only got a linebacker with a headhunter's mentality on the football field but a high character leader off the field. He's the kind of kid you hope your child or grandchildren might grow up to be and he is the type of young man who will be the perfect example for future Gators during his time on the Florida campus.

At 6-0, 209 pounds, Doe needs to add some muscle before he takes the football field this fall. He's already working on a plan to gain 10-15 pounds so he will be physically prepared for the rigors of the Southeastern Conference. He'll play behind senior Earl Everett at the weak-side (WILL) linebacker, a position that requires a lot of speed to run down ball carriers and handle tight ends in pass coverage. Timed at 4.55 in the 40 at the Nike camp in Tallahassee, Doe brings outstanding speed to the Florida roster.

A weight room warrior, he's just beginning his new training program from Florida. He already benches 295 and squats 495 but those numbers should increase with the new off-season regimen.

"Mainly I'm just working on getting in the best possible shape physically as I can, working on putting on as much muscle as possible." Doe said. "I know when I get to Gainesville they're going to put the weight on me regardless. Mainly, I'm just trying to get in the best shape possible."

Dustin lives with his mother and his younger cousin, who's like a sister to him. He's got an older brother who moved out at an early age when he was a senior in high school. Over the course of the conversation, it became apparent that his family situation was a source of motivation and drive for the young man.

"I've always lived with just my mom," he said. "My brother lived with us up until his senior year in high school and then he moved out. I have a little cousin, whose mom passed ... she lives with us now and she's like my little sister and I love her to death.

"Other than that it's just been me and my mom and my brother. He's been in and out but you know, he's still my brother. We have no hard feelings. He's apart of the family. That's basically my family … we've always been real close growing up."

It wasn't until his senior year that Doe moved over to Suwannee County. His first three years of high school were spent at Hamilton County High School in Jasper where he played football for the legendary Mike Pittman, who once won four straight state championships at Florida at Suwannee County. Due to political issues in the community dealing with a new school superintendent, Pittman was released prior to his senior season, causing a huge uproar in the community. The instability of that situation led Dustin and his mom to agree that it would be best for him to transfer elsewhere.

"When Coach Pittman got fired from Hamilton going into the spring, we weren't having spring ball at all," said Doe. "That was during the time when all the coaches were coming in to scout me so I felt that I needed to practice.

"A bunch of people in the community … parents, coaches, and students ... the community was divided because a bunch of people chose sides. My mom felt, as well as I did, that I didn't want to be caught up in any kind of controversy. We decided that it would be best for me to transfer out so I went to Suwannee. But I'm still on good terms with all the teachers, staff members. I'm even trying to go to grad night with my old high school at Hamilton. There's no hard feelings at all. Everyone knows what the situation was. Hamilton County is a great community."

The loss of Coach Pittman was a tough one for Dustin. Coach Pittman played a big part in Doe's life at the time, and was always there to answer questions and give advice, not only for Dustin, but for Dustin's mother as well.

"Coach Pittman was great," Doe said. "He helped me a lot. When he first came in, I was in the eighth grade. I give him credit for a bunch of my success because he pushed me hard. It really helped me out a lot. I bonded to his system real well.

"He worked me hard … gave me a summer job. I wouldn't say he was really a fatherly figure in my life. It was more like a grandfather figure because he had conversations with my mom and he helped her just like he helped me. If she had a problem she could call and talk to him. If I had a problem I could call and talk to him. So yeah, I'm thankful for him, because he's helped me in more ways than just football and I respect him for that."

Growing up in a single parent household, with his brother coming and going in and out of his life, Dustin grew up extremely close with his mother. His love for his mother has created a strong bond but he had a need to grow outside of that relationship and football provided the right outlet. It taught him the importance of growing up and becoming a man. It gave him discipline and provided him an opportunity to channel his energies in things like leadership and team building. Football taught him plenty of important life lessons and allowed him to mature beyond his years.

"Oh it was great," he said. "You know, it was great just to get out from under her wing, because, you know, when I was little I was a momma's boy and then when I got introduced to football it kind of helped me come into my own and establish who I was, so I'm grateful for it.

"But you know, she's always pushed me forward. Well, she never pushed me, but she said if I was going to do it, then I'm going to do it. She made sure I didn't quit and she made sure I had that drive. She never pushed but she never backed off to the point where I could do whatever I want. I love my mom to death."

The relationship with his mother and the proximity of the University of Florida campus played a huge role in his decision to become a Gator.

"She did play a major role in my decision," he said. "You know, obviously I'm moving out and getting ready to move on to the next level and I really think maybe being able to go home and see her on Sundays is going to help me a lot. Not only will it help me but it's going to help her a lot too because you know, in the end, she was there when nobody else was and when she needs me, I don't wanna be all the way across the country and I don't wanna be 5-6 hours away from her. So she played a factor in it."

To Dustin Doe, Gainesville is the "big city." Growing up all his life in a small town makes him a country boy at heart.

"I was born in Texas but have lived in Jasper since I was about three," he said. "You know, it's a real small town and it's great. I love small towns.

"I've done some hunting with Coach Pittman. He used to take the players out with him. We used to help him throw out seed and things like that. So yeah, I've shot guns before and things like that. I've been around it my whole life. I actually considered going alligator hunting one time with our resource officer but once he told me you gotta get in the boat to get the gator, I was like naah, that's all right."

After a few visits to Florida last year he got a chance to develop some friendships and relationships with some of the players. He certainly didn't come off as a country boy to his teammates.

"Well when I was in Gainesville, you know, I'm going to tell you they're already giving me the title of Pretty Boy," he said. "I'm pretty laid back … I like to look nice … but that's not me at all.

"I'm from a small town, and I let everybody know that. I'm from the country, and you know, on the field, I just transform into this animal and just try to let everybody feel it. You know, on the field, I try to be as country as I can because I feel the linebackers are the toughest defensive players and I feel the rest of the defense feeds off the linebackers. Everybody just feeds off our vibes. So I try to be as country as I can. But off the field, you know I'm pretty laid back. I like to have fun. I love to laugh. I believe laughter is the key to happiness. So I like to laugh and joke around. I'm not really serious or uptight, just real fun and laid back. That's just me."

One of the lures that the University of Florida has for him is the commitment of Gator Nation. He's been to The Swamp. He's felt the love from fans he believes are the very best in the nation.

"I went on my official visit and it was me, Brandon Siler, Brian Crum, and A.J. Jones," he said. "It was cool … we went out … they showed us around for a night on the town and me and A.J. were walking around and people were already knowing our names before we even got there. We were like man, we could get used to this!"

Dustin and A.J. Jones spent a lot of time together on their visits to Gainesville as well as the week out west for the CaliFlorida Bowl where they were teammates for the winning Florida team. The two have formed a great friendship they believe will translate into better performance on the field.

"On the visit, me and A.J. decided we want to room together next fall," he said. "We play the same position so there are certain things that we can learn from each other. When we were at CaliFlorida we were competing against each other and learning from each other at the same time. He taught me a few things and I taught him a few things. We feel that we can benefit from each other at the position. We think that by being roommates and competing for the same position, it's going to make the competition even better and make us better players."

With the early commitment to Florida, Dustin had a long wait before signing day. During that period, a certain website to the west circulated rumors that Doe was second guessing his commitment to Florida, and that he might switch his verbal to his childhood favorite Florida State. He made it perfectly clear that the rumors were completely manufactured.

"I never had any second thoughts." Doe said. "It was just a whole bunch of misunderstandings and misconceptions. People were coming to me and telling me I was going to Florida State. One time I wore my All-Star jersey from the CaliFlorida Bowl, which is garnet and gold and they thought I was wearing a Florida State jersey.

"I stood behind my word the entire time … me and my mom and the coaching staff at the University of Florida knew that. They never questioned me about it because they knew that. To me it would be out of character to change my mind. I wouldn't want to do that. I want to start off good. A first impression is a lasting impression and if I started off by giving the impression to the media and the coaches that I committed to a school and then backed out of that commitment, it wouldn't say too much about me as a person. I made my decision and I was very happy with it."

He is well aware that he might be asked to take a red-shirt in his first year at Florida. The Gators have a couple of senior linebackers in Brian Crum and Earl Everett and junior Brandon Siler who will be starting for the third straight year. Behind them will be Eric Sledge, Kalvin Baker and Ryan Stamper, all of whom red-shirted last season and Jon Demps, who played as a true freshman before he injured his knee. He's not concerned about a red-shirt and he is willing to do whatever Florida's coaches think is best. .

"If they decided that I should red-shirt, I wouldn't mind because when I get there, the coaches know what's best,." he said. "They know what they expect from me and plan for me to do. I don't have a problem with red-shirting, and I don't have a problem with them using me as a freshman and getting some playing time. I believe it's not how much time you're given, but what you do with the time that you are given.

"I may need that red-shirt, or hopefully I'll be developed enough to get in there and play early. You know, if they need me to red-shirt, I can use my freshman year as a learning year and hopefully burst out onto the scene my sophomore year. You know, right now, as a freshman, I'd like to be an impact player but if I'm just a role player I'm definitely okay with that. Everybody has to be a role player at some point. I believe that all players are role players … some just play a bigger role than everyone else."

The Gators have put together an incredibly talented class this year that is equally strong in character and that tells you a lot about the program that Urban Meyer is trying to build at Florida. In Dustin Doe, the Gators are getting a young man who is well spoken, polite and thoughtful. He maintains a 3.5 GPA and he has a qualifying 21 on his ACT. He's overcome some obstacles in his life but he's maintained a positive outlook throughout. One thing Dustin wants Gator Nation to know is that he wants to be close with the fans. He wants them to know that he's a regular person, just like them, and should be approached and treated that way.

"If you see me don't be scared of Dustin Doe." he said. "Like I said, I'm a laid back person and I like to laugh and joke around and mess around. I'm a down to earth guy. Don't treat me as Dustin Doe the player ... treat me as Dustin Doe the person. Treat me like Duke (his nickname) because that's who I am."

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