RECRUITING: Duke Lemmens Loves FNL Experience

Duke Lemmens made the trip from California to Gainesville to participate in Friday Night Lights with one thing in mind. He wanted a scholarship offer from the Florida Gators. After a spectacular performance on the field, he's got the offer he wants and the Gators look like the team to beat for the four-star defensive end from Oaks Christian School in Westlake.

(See Duke Lemmens profile)

Measured at 6-5, 230, Lemmens ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and turned in a 35-inch vertical leap. Then it was off to the on the field activities in The Swamp where the Friday Night Lights agenda drew some of the nation's top high school football players.

"I went out there and proved that I can play," he said. "I've got the scholarship I wanted and I've been smiling ever since."

While the good time in the 40 and the vertical were a sign of things to come, it was the one-on-one competition where he really showed that he's made of the right stuff. He consistently used his superior quickness and leverage to beat the offensive lineman.

"In the one-on-ones I did a pretty good on that breaking some offensive linemen's ankles," he said but even when he won the individual battles, he loved what was going on with Florida's defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.

"In the pass rushing he loved my quickness and my get-off and even when I was beating guys real bad he was coaching me and telling me I can do better," said Lemmens. "I really like that in a coach. He really wants me to be the best. He's a great guy that I want to play for. He's awesome!"

What made the night so memorable for Lemmens is that it was his first camp experience.

"It was something I'll always remember," he said. "I loved it. That's the only thing I've ever been timed at officially, the only camp I've ever been to so it was a really good experience for me to go to."

He had visited Gainesville before and enjoyed learning what a small southern college town where there is a big time sports agenda is all about. He arrived a day early for Friday Night Lights, spending part of the day with the Florida coaching staff, part of it watching the team workout in the weight room and on the field as they get ready for two-a-days which will begin in a couple of weeks, and part of it just hanging around with Corey Hobbs, Butch Rowley and David Nelson.

"It was cool getting to know the players," he said. "That's the most important part because those are the guys that you're going to be your friends the next four years and maybe the rest of your life. They've done a good job of recruiting good kids, good high character kids."

He left Florida to take an unofficial visit to the University of Miami. Saturday night he indicated that while he appreciates and likes Miami Coach Larry Coker, he just doesn't get the same feel for the Coral Gables campus that he gets for the Florida campus in Gainesville.

"I don't like how small the school is," he said. "It's not even 9,000 students. I already go to a small private school. I want to go to a bigger school with a lot of student life. I know the tradition that the football program has but I just don't feel the campus vibe, you know, the student life."

When he compared the two visits he said, "I'm biased towards Florida. That trip [to Gainesville] left me flabbergasted but it's still early for me and I have some trips left with my family on the west coast."

He said he will probably take as many as four official visits before he finally makes a commitment but the Gators seem to have the edge on the competition.

"Right now Florida and Texas A&M are at the top with Florida definitely in the lead," he said. "The only factor is the distance factor but that's something worth getting over. I've just fallen in love with that town. It's definitely the best place to play college football in the country."

He admits that Florida could go even further up his personal chart if Cincinnati LaSalle's Ben Martin decides to be a Gator. Martin is on the Florida campus until Monday. Martin did not participate in the Friday Night Lights activities, but the four-star rated (by defensive end used the time to forge a nice friendship with Lemmens.

"He didn't compete but he was there [for Friday Night Lights] and I talked with him a lot," said Lemmens. "We've gotten pretty close, exchanged numbers and so forth. We've been talking since I left. If I become a Gator I hope he will become a Gator, too.

"I just texted him and asked him how he liked it and he said he likes it a lot. He'll have fun getting to know the players and stuff."

No matter what Martin's decision is, however, Lemmens has the Gators flying high on his list that includes west coast schools like Arizona, California, Colorado and Oregon.

For any of those schools to knock Florida out of the lead will take a lights out visit and then some.

"I had a great visit to Florida," said Lemmens. "I really had a great visit."

Fightin Gators Top Stories