RECRUITING: Joe Haden Commits To Florida

The text message read "I am heading to the airport, and I am officially a Gator!!" With that Sunday morning message, Joe Haden told Gator Country that he's committed to the University of Florida, choosing the Gators over a host of big time football programs that included Ohio State. Haden came to Friday Night Lights and then stayed over for Florida's Junior Day on Saturday.

(See Joe Haden profile)

Haden is a 5-11, 195-pounder from Friendly High School in Fort Washington, Maryland. He is rated four stars by

He is a quarterback at the high school level but projects as an athlete capable of playing more than one position at the next level including wide receiver. He put up outstanding numbers as a high school quarterback last year, passing for 2,090 yards and 22 touchdowns while running for more than 500.

Haden had a pretty good idea that he wanted to be a Gator, but the Friday Night Lights Experience is what sold him completely.

"I feel great, because I was thinking I wanted to be a Gator since I was younger, but I wanted to make sure," Haden said when Gator Country contacted him after his text message. "When I got down here they showed me everything I thought it was going to be.

"I just saw the facilities and saw how they treated the people. They are just real good people. It's a family environment. They will have a great football team and will compete for SEC championships."

It didn't go down the usual way for most recruits. This is summer time and still early in the recruiting process. The academic people never really got a chance to make sure Haden would be in good enough standing. Once that hurdle was cleared everything was good. Haden stayed an extra night to make sure the news would be good news.

"It went down yesterday (Saturday) really," he started. "I talked to Coach (Billy) Gonzales and told him the move I wanted to make. Then I went to Coach (Urban) Meyer's office and told him. They wanted to wait to see my grades and see if everything shakes out there. They found out last night. So, we went out to breakfast this morning and he asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes."

Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales was in charge of recruiting Haden. He's known for a long time that Haden was a special athlete but Friday night was Haden's opportunity to show the entire Florida staff just what kind of athlete he is. Haden ran a 4.34 forty yard dash and threw up 395 pounds on the bench press, very impressive numbers.

Haden had a great time too.

"Friday Night Lights was off the chain," he said. "There is no combine that can compete with that. The competition was just great."

With quite a few Florida football players watching the competition on the field, Haden had a chance to talk to a few of them. One, in particular, clicked with the Maryland standout.

"I bonded with Percy Harvin and he is really cool," Haden said. "He is from Virginia and said whenever I come down to call him. A couple of weeks ago I talked to Tim Tebow. I like him too. He was real cool. He said when I come down we will work on everything."

The Gator staff is going to have a fun time finding out how to get the ball in Haden's hands. They plan on doing it in many different ways. The high school quarterback could get the ball in the backfield, he could have it directly snapped, he may catch kicks, and he may run reverses, or catch a deep ball. You get the picture. This kid is some kind of special athlete.

"They told me I will be an athlete that will kick return, punt return, receiver, and jump in the backfield some too," he said. "They want me all over the field."

According to Haden, Gator fans won't be disappointed when he gets on Florida Field. He may be the hardest working player in high school football and he plans on bringing that to Gainesville.

"They will see a guy that works hard and I just want to be electric in everything I do," he said. "That could be running the ball, catching the ball, being a kick returner, or a punt returner."

Gator fans will no doubt be very happy that Haden is screaming, "I am officially a Gator!!"

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