Gators in Good Hands

Sometimes it is the simplest of things that really allow you to comprehend the scope of other things. They can come out of nowhere and just hit you and the light just comes on. Friday night, it was as simple as a phone call from a high school junior that really sparked my thinking. Most Gator fans know this, but your program is in good hands.

It isn't unusual for Florida head football coach Urban Meyer to be swarmed by fans and onlookers wherever he goes, especially if attending a football game. That is no different whether out of state or in-state recruiting at high school games. When Urban Meyer shows up, people pay attention and talk about it.

Friday night, I happened to be in DeLand covering a high school football game that featured four of the biggest prospects on the Florida Gators' recruiting board for the 2009 class. On one side of the field was the visiting Sanford Seminoles and their highly touted trio of wide receiver/super athlete Andre DeBose, defensive end Dyron Dye, and another super defensive athlete in Ray Ray Armstrong. On the opposite field was blazing fast running back Mike Gillislee. Armstrong, DeBose, and Gillislee would all cross the goal line on the night for touchdowns in the 21-6 Seminole win.

Meyer was the only Florida coach in attendance as the six assistant coaches allowed out recruiting at the same time were at other schools to be seen and watch other prospects. They do this to maximize visibility and to see more of these prospects for themselves.

Meyer was there for the first half and missed a lot of the fireworks and scoring after halftime. But, he no doubt got to see enough of all four players to know that they are prospects that he would want wearing the orange and blue for him some day.

There was a moment during a lull in the action that really caught my attention. It was something so seemingly insignificant that only three people probably knew it was happening.

Meyer simply reached into his pocket and grabbed his cell phone that was ringing. I could see him check the caller ID on the screen before a smile came on his face and then he answered it. Behind me, maybe only 10 yards away standing at the front of the stands on the visitors' side was 2010 super wide receiver prospect Ricardo Miller of Orlando (FL) Dr. Phillips. Miller was at the game with his teammate, wide receiver Kenny Shaw, who happens also to be a highly recruited receiver on the Gators' target list. They were there scouting Sanford who is the team they will be playing in two weeks. When Miller noticed Meyer, he decided he wanted to talk.

NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from face-to-face contact outside the confines of their own universities during certain times of the year. This is one of those times and Miller, being just a junior in high school, is pretty much off limits anytime, unless he calls to talk to Meyer or comes to the university.

So, here is Meyer watching four big time prospects for the class of 2009. He has a full grasp of the names, faces, and personalities of all the prospects he is watching plus who knows how many more he isn't watching this night. He has a team of more than 100 players back in Gainesville on a weekend off. And now, he is taking calls from a junior in high school in a class that he has already started to familiarize himself with.

He proceeds to have a nice short conversation with Miller all the while dying to look over his shoulder and wave, but he isn't about to risk any rules issues. My gaze turns to Miller who is smiling and chatting away with Meyer trying to convince the coach to look over. It didn't work, but they both were smiling and content looking when the conversation was over.

It isn't everyday when I find myself conveniently placed literally in the middle of a conversation between a coach and a prospect. I didn't hear a single word that was said, but the looks from both told everything I needed to know.

After the conversation was over, Meyer turned his attention back to the prospects he actually came to watch. His posture went into coaching mode, bent over at the hip hands on his knees and watching as if he was about ready to shout out instructions or encouragement to the guys on the field.

At halftime he walked away. As it turned out, he was heading over to Groveland (FL) South Lake to see Gator commitment and offensive tackle Jonotthan Harrison. Somehow Meyer made it there before too much of the third quarter had passed.

After the game the crowd that had been gathered to watch a hard fought and excellent contest between two big time programs was still buzzing about Urban Meyer being on the sideline for the game. The game featured an electrifying 30-yard touchdown run by the hometown star Gillislee and an amazing 72-yard quarterback draw on 3rd-and-32 from the All-American DeBose. The defenses were going after it all night and kept the score close. But, when the crowd was thinned out and the conversation started among fans still left in the stands, I just kept hearing the name Urban Meyer this and Urban Meyer that.

Meyer didn't hear all this because he left at the half to go watch Harrison. That would be the seventh possible future football player he would impress with his presence on the sideline on this one night...four playing the game, two watching a game, and one more playing in another game. They all know that Meyer knows exactly who they are and exactly what they mean to him and his program.

Again, a lot of people knew that Meyer would be there and in Groveland to scout five 2009 prospects. Only a few knew that he was doing his own bit of recruiting for even farther in the future with Miller and Shaw. Seven prospects from three schools in the time it takes to watch one game. Not many can do that.

Most Gators fans know this already, but your head football coach is like the Allstate Insurance man. The program is in good hands with Urban Meyer.


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