Tolbert Leaves For The NFL

[MEDIA:32872]<B>Tyke Tolbert</B>, Florida's recruiting coordinator for the past season, is now headed to the NFL. Yesterday, he was named the wide receiver's coach for the Arizona Cardinals. UFI speaks with Coach Tolbert about his decision and his memories of the past year with the Gators. Tolbert was also instrumental in helping Coach Ron Zook and the Gator staff in landing their best recruiting class ever.

Florida finished with an amazing recruiting class this season and there were many factors as to why. One big reason was Tyke Tolbert, Florida's recruiting coordinator. Yesterday, Tolbert was named the wide receiver's coach for the Arizona Cardinals. For him, it was an agonizing decision to leave the Gators.

"It was harder than most people think," said Tolbert. "It is so hard to get a chance to coach in the NFL that I couldn't pass on this opportunity. It was a tough call."

Tolbert, 35 years old, will be re-united with his mentor, Arizona offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan. Tolbert played wide receiver for Sullivan when he was a member of the LSU Tigers.

"He was my coach at LSU and he always looked out for me and taught me so much. I was almost like a player-coach at LSU and it's all because of him. 90% of what I know about the position (WR) is from Coach Sullivan. He groomed me."

Tolbert played his high school football at Houston (Texas) Conroy High School and signed with LSU. He played for the Tigers from 1986-90. After his playing days, he coached three years at Northeast Louisiana, a year at Auburn, three years at Louisiana Lafayette before coming to Gainesville last season. He also had internships with the Detroit Lions (1997) and Arizona (2000).

"What a great year I had at Florida," said Tolbert. "My wife and I really enjoyed it. They really took care of us and I want to really thank Coach (Ron) Zook and Mr. (Jeremy) Foley for giving me that opportunity. It was a great time and it was great experience to be with such an elite program like Florida.

"There were a lot of fond memories this season but none bigger than beating an unbeaten Georgia team and beating Auburn in overtime."

Another fond memory for Coach Tolbert was this recruiting class the Gators signed on Wednesday.

"That made it hard to leave because this class is going to be special. Many of these kids will play next year. The Florida fans will see how much talent they all have. Watch what they do as sophomores because that's when the Gators will be chomping. I am looking for great things from these guys.

"It feels good to know I had a part in that but all the coaches busted their butts. All I did is wear the (recruiting coordinator) hat. Another person instrumental was Betty Ling (recruiting secretary). She kept us all in line.

"From the first day I got here, I knew we would have a great class because when we weren't meeting about football, all the coaches were on the phones, talking with coaches, principals, players, parents and anyone they could to build the relationships. That's what it is all about."

Although much of the credit has gone to coach Zook and deservedly so, it was a team effort from top to bottom.

"It all starts with coach Zook because he is so aggressive and relentless. He will set a new standard for Head Coaches and how they handle and attack the recruiting process."

One big thing Tolbert did devise was the coach's motto towards recruiting. He wanted them to be a bunch of rats.

"It sounds funny but I came up with that motto and rats stands for something," explained Tolbert. "'R' stands for relentless... 'A' stands for aggressive... 'T' stands for tireless... and 'S' stands for salesmanship. I imposed that motto on our staff and it certainly represented what we accomplished."

Now Tolbert is on to the NFL where he hopes this leads to bigger and better things for his future. After all, when you coach, you want to coach at the highest level.

"You don't leave Florida for a lateral job. I never would have done that. I have always wanted to coach this game at the highest level. My next goal is to become a head coach at this level or another big-time level (college). And let me say this, if I ever have a chance to coach with Coach Zook again, I would do it in a heart beat. He is hard nosed and fair. Coach wanted me to stay at Florida but he also gave me a lot of insight into the NFL. He did spend six seasons in the league. In the end, he was pro-Florida and wanted me to stay but he understood that I couldn't pass on this.

"I will always remember my year at Florida and I will always be a Gator."

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