RECRUITING: Wilks Makes It 6 'Gatornaughts'

When he was just a little guy, Steven Wilks would sit in The Swamp watching Danny Wuerffel and the Florida Gators destroying one opponent after another on their way to a national championship, all the time dreaming of the day he would run through the tunnel while a sea of orange and blue clad fans roared their deafening approval. That dream is going to be a reality for the Lakeland safety.

(Steven Wilks profile)

Wilks came to Gainesville Wednesday along with his mother Kim and teammates Michael and Maurkice Pouncey. While Michael and Maurkice, offensive tackles who have committed to the University of Florida hung around with Florida's offensive line coaches, Steven and his mom got the a-plus tour of the Florida campus and facilities, plus they met all the coaches and support staff. At the end of the afternoon, while Steven was sitting in a film room watching tape with some of the Florida coaches, Coach Urban Meyer entered the room.

"We were sitting in the film room watching tape with some coaches and Coach Meyer came in the room and asked me if I want to be a Gator," Wilks said while driving home to Lakeland. "I said yes sir, yes sir I do. I want to be a Florida Gator.

"He said I have a scholarship for you then. Welcome to the family!"

Wilks is the sixth player from the Lakeland team to commit to the Gators, joining running back/receiver Chris Rainey, cornerback Ahmad Black, wide receiver Paul Wilson and offensive tackles Michael and Maurkice Pouncey. Overall, he is the eleventh player to commit to Florida's recruiting class of 2007.

Wilks is a headhunter of a safety, 6-3, 195 pounds, known to his teammates as "Hit Man" because he regularly lays out anyone foolish enough to venture into his territory. As a junior on Lakeland's 15-0 team that won the USAToday national championship, he has 132 tackles, six interceptions, two blocked punts, two sacks and six fumble recoveries. In addition to taking one side of the field away along with Black, who plays the corner position on the same side of the field with Wilks, he is also a standout special teams player.

"I just have a knack of showing up wherever the ball is," said Wilks, who patterns his game after one of his two favorite Gators of all time, Todd Johnson (Wuerffel is the other). "There's just nothing better than getting there at the same time the ball gets there and hitting someone really hard."

He plays safety at Lakeland but he said the Gators are recruiting him to play outside linebacker. He has a long, lean frame that can easily add on another 30-35 pounds of muscle.

"My goal would be to get up around 225 or 230," he said. At that weight he would be similar in size to his two favorite NFL players, John Lynch (former Tampa Bay Bucs, now Denver Broncos safety) and Brian Urlacher (Chicago Bears linebacker). "I like John Lynch and Urlacher because they also have a knack for showing up where the ball is and hitting people really hard. I really do love to hit people.

"Florida is recruiting me as a linebacker and that's fine with me because I would really like to put on that weight and play there in college football."

He said he is overwhelmed that he'll not only be a Gator, which fulfills a lifelong dream, but he will also be joining five of his closest friends in Gainesville for the next four years.

"It really is comforting that all of us are going to be together," said Wilks. "These are five players that I've been through a lot with. Basically, they're all my brothers. We're best friends … really, we're brothers. We are a family and it's just comforting to know that the family will be together in Gainesville."

He's played football with the Pouncey twins since they were all little guys. Rob Webster, Maurkice and Michael's dad, was their coach so they've grown up together playing football. That's what made Wilks' scholarship offer such a good thing for Michael Pouncey.

"It's hard to imagine being on a football team without him," said Michael. "He's fully committed to the Gators, just like us, and we're all happy that we're going to be together."

Maurkice Pouncey said that Wilks will bring a combination of many positives to the Gators.

"First off, he's a tough guy who is the hardest hitter you'll see," said Maurkice. "He's a great hitter and he's a great athlete, too. He's a great leader and he will definitely bring leadership qualities to the Gators, just like all of us from Lakeland will."

Kim Wilks was overwhelmed that her son got the scholarship offer.

"This is a great moment for him," she said. "I'm so proud of him. As a mom you want the best for your kids and you want to see them make their dreams come true. I'm just so proud of him."

She said that she had been praying all along that Steven would be a Gator, but when she met Coach Meyer, she knew this was the right place for her son.

"I give the Lord all the credit for this," she said. "We've just prayed and prayed about it and now this is an absolutely awesome moment that answers prayers. Coach Meyer is just unbelievable and so genuine. He's like the ultimate family guy. You can tell he loves the kids on his team and he's so interested in each player.

"I bet he hugged me about 15 times after we got the offer. Actually, the whole Florida coaching staff was absolutely wonderful. I'm so proud he [Steven] is going to Florida. He's going to be in good hands."

Like all the parents of the Lakeland kids that have committed to the Gators, Kim Wilks was happy that the kids will all stay together and go to the same school.

"All of these kids, they really are like my own children," she said. "All of us --- the kids and their parents --- are really close and especially for us, the Pounceys. When they were even little guys they were playing for Rob and they became like brothers. They're just like my own kids. It really says a lot about the Lakeland coaching staff that six kids off one team are all going to play for the University of Florida.

"We're going to have T-shirts made up that we'll be wearing all season that say 'Gatornaughts' on them. We'll be wearing them every game."

Wilks was being recruited heavily by Iowa, LSU, Nebraska, South Florida and UCF. He has a 3.0 in the classroom and he's already received a qualifying score on the SAT.

Michael Pouncey said bringing Wilks into the Florida fold leaves one more major task.

"Six down and one to go," he said. "John Brown is next. We're all going to be working on him."

Steven Wilks thought for a moment about the possibility of seven Dreadnaughts on the same team and said, "That would be awesome if we get John, too. Seven of us on the same college team. That would really be something, wouldn't it?"

Here's a brief highlight reel from the state championship game -- look for #21.

Stay tuned for a full season highlight reel of Wilk's antics on the field.

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