Pupello Couldn't Say No To UF Tradition

When it came time to decide where he would sign a football scholarship, tradition grabbed Trent Pupello by the lapels and reminded him that there was orange and blue blood flowing through his veins. As the son of a former Florida offensive lineman, the big tight end from Tampa Jefferson just couldn't say no to his UF roots when Coach Urban Meyer and the Gators made their pitch. He committed right after the Florida-FSU game to be a part of the recruiting class of 2006.

(Trent Pupello profile)

Now that he's in the Gator fold, there's a bonus both to Trent and the Florida football team. His brother Kyle, a fullback/linebacker transfer from Northwest Mississippi Junior College, has enrolled at Florida and is already participating in pre-spring strength and conditioning drills. That just makes everything that much better for the son of Joe Pupello, an offensive lineman for the Gators back in 1974-76. The idea that he's a Gator legacy just adds to Trent's excitement.

"It's a dream come true," Trent said. "I've always wanted to be a Gator. I grew up a Gator. I definitely see the program going up and getting back to the old Florida football. I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be apart of it."

Trent currently weighs 255 pounds and is listed at 6-4. He's a weight-room warrior, already preparing himself to be in the best shape possible for those grueling summer practices. He recently maxed out on the bench at 405 pounds with a squat of 405 ten times. He's planning to improve those numbers as he bulks up to handle the rigors of playing tight end at this next level.

"Right now my main focus is to bulk up and improve my strength," he said. "I'm focused on increasing my speed, too, but I'm weight-lifting, trying to get strong right now. I'm on the Florida [strength and conditioning] program right now which is a lot of strength-training but working on the speed aspect of things, too. I've been running and my speed is increasing. My fastest forty-time is a 4.7."

The Gators currently have only one solid tight end on the roster in Tate Casey. During practice for the Outback Bowl Cornelius Ingram moved from quarterback to tight end but it is likely he will be used more as an H-back and a receiving threat. Trent brings some much needed depth to the position as a traditional blocking tight end that can contribute in the passing game if needed.

"I mean, with blocking, they need some good blocking there at the tight end position," Trent said. "I've got all the respect in the world for Tate Casey. He blocks well, and I'm definitely not taking any credit away from Tate Casey … he's an awesome tight end. But he's their only tight end on the roster. I guess Ingram is your second now, but you need at least two pure tight ends. I can see myself pretty much doing the same thing Tate Casey is doing at Florida. I don't see the move of Cornelius Ingram changing things at all."

The recruiting process for Trent came down to one of those typical Florida-Florida State battles for his services. Florida State offered extremely early since the Seminoles graduated three tight ends and because Trent was one of the most sought after tight ends in the state. Because Florida waited to offer a little bit later in the process, many people considered Trent to be a Florida State lock.

"Yeah, I actually thought I was an FSU lock as well," he said. "It changed after I went to the Vanderbilt game. I mean, just the whole scene at the game … the fans, the excitement and vibe in the stadium. It was so much better than Florida State. I definitely made up my mind after the Florida-Florida State game though."

Joe Pupello played on the offensive line for the Gators back in the Doug Dickey era. He has been a constant source of encouragement for Trent and being an old offensive lineman, he's been able to coach up his son a bit. It should be no surprise the new Gator decided to ultimately follow in his father's footsteps.

"He just knows a lot and fills me in on what I need to know … about Florida, about college football, the difference in high school and college," Trent said. "He gives me a few pointers here and there on blocking, too.

"I've heard a few Florida stories over the years as well. Throughout the recruiting process, I mean, he added a lot to my decision but at the same time it was my decision to make. I mean, he was there and he told me some things but it was up to me and it was my decision. The idea of following in his footsteps was an honor, but I mean, I couldn't base my entire decision on just that."

Trent isn't the only one following Joe's footsteps, however. Kyle Pupello, after stops at Georgia Tech and Northwest Mississippi Junior College, arrived in Gainesville as a walk-on fullback/linebacker prospect in January. He will be participating in spring practice, trying to earn a spot on the roster.

"He went to Georgia Tech out of high school but didn't make his grades there," Trent said. "Then he went to junior college, and ended up walking on at Florida. He's up there (in Gainesville) now. He says he loves it up there. They've been working out everyday so they've been training pretty hard."

The addition of his older brother Kyle will help Trent on and off the field his freshman year at UF. Their relationship is already about as good as it gets, but Trent expects that this whole experience will only bring them closer.

"Oh yeah, it's going to be great having him up there," Trent said. "It's something that can help me come in and get adapted to the situation, being able to have someone there that I'm close to.

"We're real close. I mean, we're as close as you can probably get. We didn't really fight over any girls or anything like that. We used to fight in the house, you know, like brothers. One time as kids we were in the pool, and we were throwing things at each other, and he looked over, and I threw a pop gun at him like a spear ... one of those little guns with the caps in it. I threw it at him, being stupid, and it hit him right in the eye. To this day, he's got a scar above his eye around his eyebrow from it."

Trent Pupello has the kind of tough-guy attitude that Coach Urban Meyer likes in his players. He's big, strong and plays with a nasty attitude. It's a physical game and he's a very physical player. His teammates and coaches at Jefferson called him Shockey after New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey, the former University of Miami All-American. Pupello has the long, blonde hair that flows from beneath his helmet just like Shockey and just like Shockey on the field, he never shies away from contact.

He enjoys the grunt work in the trenches when he's asked to block just as much as he enjoys catching the ball and running over a safety that has more bravery than brains. He knows what will be expected of him when he hits the Florida campus and he's ready for the task. He was born for this. After all, he's the son of a Gator lineman and the blood in those veins has always been orange and blue.

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