Pagan Picks the Gators

One of the nation's top defensive prospects has found a home. The 6-4, 270-pound superstar Jeoffrey Pagan from Asheville (NC) is now part of the Gator Nation. Touring the Southeast with coach, friend and more importantly mentor Mike Zboyovski, the Pagan crew visited North Carolina State, North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, Alabama and now the Gators.

One trip to Gainesville and Pagan had seen enough.

"Coach Zboyovski told me when I was ready to pick a school and commit then we would buy a bunch of gear for that school," Jeoffrey Pagan said. "He said when you are ready and you are in love with a school we would by clothes. We went and spent over $300 on all kinds of stuff. When we met Coach Meyer Friday night, I sat down in the upper level with Coach Meyer and I had a Florida hat in a bag and I told him I loved this place and this is where I wanted to be so I pulled out my Florida hat and put it on. Coach Meyer kind of looked at me and said are you sure this is what you want and I told him yes coach I have done some thinking and this is where I want to be. He got up and started doing some dancing and after that I am there. I am a Gator.

"I feel really good after doing this and getting it over. Seeing how many people support the players and how much we mean to the fans and it's important for me to be a part of that. I have never seen true diehard fans like the ones in Gainesville."

As exciting as it was on Friday night for Pagan, it was equally as exciting for Coach Zboyovski.

"Being up there, sitting up there with JP and Coach Meyer and for me to bring him here to be a part of this is special for me," Zboyovski said. "After seeing everything and talking with JP he expressed this is where he wants to call home for the next few years. To see him put on that Florida Gator hat and tell Coach Meyer that was very emotional for me with the bond we share. It's great to know he is going to be in place that he wants to be and with a coaching staff that is excited to have him.

‘It's great tradition at Florida and a had a lot of different emotions knowing what he has gone through in his life to be able to be at this point with a team like Florida and Coach Meyer it was very exciting. We have been to a number of schools all over the country and JP has been recruited by everyone. The facilities are facilities the campuses are campuses after a while. What it comes down to is making a decision based on where do you want to spend the next few years of your life as a student. He felt 100 percent comfortable with the coaching staff and it's the right fit.

"Looking at it from the outside in people want to throw stones because Florida is so successful but there is a reason for that success. Once you get down here it's a family atmosphere. Coach Urban Meyer, D.J. Durkin, Coach Dan McCarney and Mark Pantoni have all been very important getting to know Jeff as a person and once we met Coach McCarney it was the icing on the cake once we got down here and saw everything in person. With Coach McCarney you can tell there is a mutual respect from player to coach but also has that father figure when he is working there is no bones about it he is all business but he cares about his guys and he will help develop Jeff on and off the field."

Pagan has been one of the most heavily recruited players across the country holding offers from Alabama, Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, LSU, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, USC, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest to name a few. In the end one offer stood out above the rest.

Pagan arrived late Thursday night and was at The Swamp around 10:30 a.m. on Friday morning and spoke about what he saw.

"It was a rush all at once. Coach Meyer had such an impact on my decision and he was so cool and I could see him definitely coaching me as far as football player and being there for me. It's more like a family at Florida and he made us feel like we were all family and it was just a rush. It was hot on our tour and I like the hot and the tour of the facilities were amazing but after a while all the visits and stuff the facilities all kind of look the same but this place is unique and amazing."

Pagan spent some quality time with his future position coach Dan McCarney on Friday and Saturday was able to take in his first ever game in The Swamp.

"Coach McCarney is 100 percent real with me and he kept it honest with us and he didn't try and jerk us around he kept it real with me and talked to me like a grown man. He is a great guy and I think with his guidance and he advancing me as a player I think I can be pretty good here at Florida.

"My mind was all over the place watching the game with those fans and I can see myself running out of the tunnel and having a great career as a Florida Gator. This is my first year playing defensive end but I think I am a pretty good pass rusher and good size and speed for a guy that is 270-pounds. I need to work on my technique and there is always room for improvement. Once I get my technique down I think I will be a force to be reckoned with."

Zboyovski has seen Pagan firsthand and has watched how hard he has worked to raise his game to another level and talked about his ability moving forward.

"Jeff has the ability to be as good as he wants. At 6-4 and 270 when he steps foot on campus he will be maybe one of the fastest defensive linemen on the team. He runs in the 4.6 range and even played wide receiver for a season. Often times you will find guys that have the size but maybe not the athletic ability and speed. Other times you will see guys with the ability and speed but not the size and that is what makes Jeff so special because he has size, speed and the athletic ability. From a defensive end standing he possesses the ability to get out on the edge and he likes to get in there and bang with the big guys. The Florida fans will fall in love with JP once the see him."

Pagan spent time with all star defensive linemen from the 2010 class Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Dominique Easley and put it in very simple terms when talking about playing with those caliber players.

"National championship."

The four-star prospect and No. 98 ranked player in America according to had high expectations for Gainesville and it lived up to the hype. Academics, facilities, players and the stadium itself made a huge impression on the nation's No. 14 ranked defensive end, but for Pagan it was something more than that. It was about the players, coaches and the ability to be a part of a family.

It was always in his heart and it was always about becoming a Florida Gator. Had Pagan and Zboyovski never crossed paths, this trip as well as others may have been in jeopardy. When you put other people's interests ahead of yourself, it's the most unselfish act one can offer and Zboyovski deserves a ton of credit even though he won't accept any of it. The smile on Pagan's face late Friday evening was all he needed to see. It was a culmination of events that brought the two together and there have been tough times for each but they found strength in one another's friendship and both are the beneficiaries of the bond they share with each other.

"It means a lot that Mike is in my life. I mean because my mom is always there for me but when she is not able to provide he has always been there from day one taking care of me and being the person that I turn to for anything that I ever need."

Giving is nothing new to Zboyovski (offensive line/assistant coach) and is something he has done his entire life. For him it's about giving to others so much that he founded "The B.R.I.D.G.E.S Foundation" a non-profit youth organization which stands for Building, Responsible, Integral, Disciplined, Generous, Exemplarily and Samaritans.

"I enjoy the challenge and it's like anything else in life; you must set goals and stick with them. High school students are in a very volatile time in their life and being able to get to know them on a personal basis and I enjoy helping them reach their goals and its something I really enjoy doing. When I was 21 years old, I got associated with the first person that at the time was homeless and after I got out of college and worked in different businesses I was always trying to help kids in the community. I was coaching youth sports and helping out a friend of mine Scott Buchannan who was coaching with the football team and when the economy turned I was at a turning point in my life. I really wanted to do something and set up something full time for the kids so I set up the B.R.I.D.G.E.S. foundation for kids, which is currently in its final stages of 501c(3) status so I can take in tax free donations for youth from seventh grade through 12th grade that helps them with accountability and maturing in all facets of their life not just sports.

Zboyovski takes great comfort knowing the Florida coaches will be an extension of himself and will continue to mold and guide Pagan not only on the football field but into manhood. He talked about where his emotions will be a year from now when Pagan runs out of the tunnel.

"That will be another emotional time knowing how hard he has worked to get to that level to be a part of this history and this tradition will be great. To see that No. 2 come out of that tunnel and strap it up getting the Florida fans fired up making plays is going to be special. I think it all comes down to what every person deals with just different obstacles you stay humble and do things the right way and good things will happen."

Ashville High School is coached by Danny Wilkins. This past February, Wilkins was named one of the North Carolina coaches in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, which will take place Saturday December 18 at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Hollywood Bob Breakdown:

At 6-4, 270-pounds Pagan is already ideal size to come in and play at the college level and his motor should allow him to stay outside.

The guy is absolutely relentless to the ball and does not stay blocked. Once he does make contact with a lineman he usually bulls them backwards and often times into the ball carrier. He also stays keenly aware of where the ball is by keeping his head up and following the most important thing on the field.

Maybe the most impressive trait is just how fast and quick he is for his size. It allows him to do all the things mentioned above at an elite level.

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