"He's one funny dude," said Mincey, just back from what he called a "great trip" to Boston. "You watch him on TV and you'll never know what a real character he is. He can make you laugh a lot but he's got a serious side about him that has nothing at all to do with football, too. We probably laughed more and talked more about life than we did about football when I was up there. He's a lot like Urban Meyer, just a good dude that you like as a person and you want to play football for."
During Meyer's first year as Florida's head coach, he came to rely on three seniors. Mincey, Vernell Brown and Jarvis Herring were players that Meyer could rely on for 100 percent effort on the field and 100 percent leadership both on and off the field. Meyer recently said that the leadership he got from Mincey, Brown and Herring helped hold the team together during some tough times at midseason. The leadership that Meyer got from those three helped turn things around with a huge season-ending win over Florida State in The Swamp and an Outback Bowl game victory over Iowa.
"I feel privileged that I got to play under Coach Meyer," said Mincey, a 6-3, 257-pound defensive end who's been timed in the high 4.5-low 4.6 range in private workouts for NFL teams. "There's no doubt --- no doubt at all --- that Coach Meyer's the right coach at the right time for the University of Florida. He's going to get it done here in a big way.
"Coach Meyer definitely brought out the best in me. You only have to hang around with him a little bit to learn what he's all about. He's the kind of guy that you want to give 100 percent for because you know he really does care about you and that he really does want what's best for you. He takes the time with players to get to know everything about them and that means a lot. I like it that you always know where you stand with him."
Mincey came to Florida after two years of junior college in Kansas, a time that he says "molded my character and helped to make me the guy I am today." Away from home for the first time, far removed from family and friends, he learned to study and learned to focus in on all the things that are important.
He transferred into Florida and played one year for Coach Ron Zook before Meyer took over the program last year. He made the coaching transition from Zook to Meyer easily just as he made the transition in the classroom. The study habits he picked up in junior college helped get him ready for the rigors of academic life at Florida. He's worked hard and soon he'll reap that reward.
"I'm only six hours from my degree," he said, "and that includes taking one semester off. "All I have to do is take these six more hours and I'll be a college graduate. That means more to me than gold or a national championship. A college degree is something that will pay you back every day of your life. People look at you different when you're a college graduate. They treat you different. You've got an education and that tells people something good about you."
If there is anybody in the world happier than Jeremy Mincey about getting his degree from the University of Florida, it's his mother Arva Mincey in Statesboro. .
"It means a lot to her that I'll graduate," he said. "You know, I'm doing it for me but I'm also doing it for her and for my dad."
He's been a regular at spring practice, taking time to let some players know they need to step it up and giving pointers to some of the defensive linemen. He expects the defensive linemen, and particularly the defensive ends, to play as hard as he did every play.
"I expect them [defensive ends] to lead by example," he said. "You can always hustle. You can always give your best."
Watching the Gators practice, he sees more hustle, more determination and more intensity this spring than last year. Part of that is because everybody has a year in the system and that means things are done instinctively without thinking. Also, he believes that the Gators understand that Meyer isn't going to tolerate slackers. Players that can't practice hard and with intensity every day are going to learn that there is no place for them on this team.
"It's go all out or go home," said Mincey. "That's the way it should be. If you can't give your best every play, every practice, then you don't deserve to be here. What's a little hustle and hard work in exchange for a college degree and a chance to get better so that you can have a chance to maybe make it at the next level?"
He is also hoping that the football team can learn a few things from Florida's national championship basketball team. Mincey, who was an All-State basketball player in Georgia during his high school days, is close to several of the players on the team. He's proud of the way they played hard and stuck together as a team even when there was adversity. He hopes that the Florida football team will take its cue from them this fall.
"These are guys that believed that nothing was impossible," he said. "I can respect that. I can respect guys who don't want to be like the past teams and maybe win one game in the tournament and then the season's over and they're saying 'well, we were pretty good.' That wasn't good enough for them. They wanted more and they believed that if they worked hard together and sacrificed and believed in themselves, they could make some history.
"Joakim Noah and I are friends, just like I'm friends with Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, C-Rich (Chris Richard) and all those guys. I admire them for what they did and how they did it. I want to see the football team take that kind of attitude this year."
He has a lot of faith that Florida's football team will play for championships in the fall just as he has faith that he will have a chance to prove he belongs in the National Football League. All the feedback he's been getting says he'll go as high as late second round but no later than mid-fourth.
He'll play and play hard for whoever drafts him, but there's no question which team he's hoping to play for and that's the New England Patriots.
"I feel real comfortable with Coach Bellichik and all those people," he said. "When I was up there I got to meet the GM, some of the teammates and coaches. I got to see what they do in some of their defensive schemes and they say I fit in real well with what they do."
The Patriots run a 3-4 with outside linebackers that are big and strong enough to rush the passer and fast enough to drop back in coverage. Speed and agility are his best assets so he probably will be able to make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 without much difficulty. He had a private workout with Bellichik in Gainesville so he has a good feel for what is expected.
"They already know what I can do from when he [Bellichik] worked me out three weeks ago," said Mincey. "They tell me I can fit in good with them. While I was up there they were asking me if I would mind being teammates with Chad Jackson again. I told them that's fine with me because Chad's the kind of guy that if you give him the ball, he's going to make plays for you. I'd be real happy playing with him."
So now he plays the waiting game. The NFL Draft is April 29-30 so the next couple of weeks will be a time when he's a little bit nervous. He knows he will be playing somewhere at the next level and that's fine with him, but until he hears his name called out, there is nervous energy.
"We're going to have a real party in Statesboro," he said. "We'll have family and friends there so it's going to be a lot of fun, but everybody's going to be nervous until my name is called out. This is a big deal for Statesboro and it's a big deal for me because I know there are some kids somewhere in Statesboro that maybe can look at me and think if he did it, so can I."