Recruits Buying Into Being "The 1% of the 1%"
Where the .0001% get to play... / GETTY IMAGES
Where the .0001% get to play... / GETTY IMAGES
Posted Jul 8, 2005

Fans on the message boards of the teams that recruit head to head with the University of Florida seem to be having a field day ridiculing Coach Urban Meyer's ongoing theme of bringing in the "one percent of the one percent." Go visit an opposing team's message board on any given day and usually there will be at least a couple of very long threads all dedicated to making fun of Meyer's message.

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Opposing fans may laugh, but it is becoming abundantly clear that the message isn't lost on the ones that count the most --- recruits.

Consider this. We're barely more than a week into July and already the Gators have seven solid commitments. Check the top 100 players in the nation and you'll find Florida mentioned with the top recruits more than any other school except perhaps two-time defending national champion Southern Cal. When you talk to the kids who have committed to Florida about what underscores their commitment to the Gators, one of the first things they mention is that they want to be part of that "one percent of the one percent."

Recruits are buying into it because they truly understand exactly what Meyer is saying. It's not just about being a top student or a top football player. If these kids weren't among the best football players in the country they wouldn't have scholarship offers from the Gators. And, if they weren't capable of competing academically at a school like Florida, where the average freshman SAT is above 1350 and the average incoming GPA is above 4.1, again, there would be no offer.

The latest commitment, Terron Sanders, elaborated on what it meant to him in a Tuesday evening conversation when he was discussing exactly what it was that set his choice in stone for Florida.

"Not just Coach Meyer, but Coach Mattison, Coach Addazio … all the coaches at Florida … they emphasize being more than just a football player," said Sanders. "It's not like that with other schools, but that's what they do at Florida and that impressed me a lot.

      When you talk to the kids who have committed to Florida about what underscores their commitment to the Gators, one of the first things they mention is that they want to be part of that "one percent of the one percent."

"They say they want us to be the total person and that means a lot to me. I'm not someone they will just use for football then they'll forget me. They want players who are committed to getting an education and you look at Florida's academics and you better be ready to work hard. They want players who are ready to plan for the future after football and they want players who will commit to living their life the right way when they're away from the football field. All those things were important to me."

Sanders said that he comes from a family that lives by Christian values, so it was important, not just for him, but for his mother (Tammy) and father (Ike) that he would go to a school that places an emphasis on living right away from the football field. To be part of the Champion's Club at Florida, players have to invest fully into hitting the books and living life the right way off the field as well as giving maximum effort on the football field, in the weight room and in conditioning.

"Getting your education and living life right are as important to Florida's coaches as playing football," Sanders said. "I can't wait to get to Florida so I can get in the Champion's Club."

Another recent commitment, Dustin Doe of Live Oak Suwannee, told Gator Country's Bob Redman that it was very appealing to him and to his mother that Florida's coaching staff spent more time talking about education and maintaining high personal values than they did about football. Doe grew up a University of Georgia fan and he had more than a passing interest in the School Out West, but Meyer and the Florida staff sold him and his mom on being that "one percent of the one percent."

There is misconception among rivals about Meyer's one percent of the one percent theme because they haven't taken the time to consider that Meyer is talking about the whole person and not just the football player. When the coach is talking about being the one percent of the one percent, he's talking about striving to be your best in every aspect of life. It is Meyer's contention that a football player who slacks off in his personal life can never achieve on the football field to the max. Players whose lives are in order off the field, he believes, will achieve greater results on the field.

"Coach Meyer told us that if our kids have issues off the field or in the classroom that they won't play for him," said Tom Butler, Lance's father, the morning of the Orange and Blue Game back in April. Tom had just returned from a parents' meeting with Meyer and he came away totally impressed.

"Live your life right off the field and give 100 percent in your studies and you won't have issues," Tom said. "And he told us that if our kids fail a class because they didn't go to class or didn't take advantage of the tutors and all the academic support that we (the parents) would be paying for their summer school, not him."

While Lance is a top student and certainly not one to slack on academics, Tom made it a point to let his son know that he supported the coach on this rule.

"I told him if he flunked a class because he was too lazy to go to class or get some help, no more car payment from me … no more insurance from me," said Tom. "Lance said 'Dad, you know I'm going to go to class and I'm not going to fail' and I said I know, but I'm letting you know just in case!"

Co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison recently talked about how Meyer demands accountability from the players as well as the assistant coaches. He said that the coaches know that these are their kids and their responsibility, so the assistants take the time to know what's up in the lives of the players they coach. They take the time to make sure the players go to class. In study halls, the assistant coaches make certain that the players aren't just wasting time or reading something unrelated to their school work.

      "It's not acceptable if you're not willing to do your best to be a winner. This is the way we do it with academics, too. There isn't another coach anywhere who is more involved in the way players are doing in the classroom than Urban Meyer, and that extends to all the assistant coaches too." -- Coach Mattison

"There's accountability in every phase of our program, from the way you train in the offseason in the weight room to the way you live your life away from football," Mattison said. "You have to decide what is acceptable and what isn't if you're going to be a part of this program.

"It's not acceptable if you're not willing to do your best to be a winner. This is the way we do it with academics, too. There isn't another coach anywhere who is more involved in the way players are doing in the classroom than Urban Meyer, and that extends to all the assistant coaches too."

The accountability, the involvement, the care and concern that the coaches have for their players is a strong selling point on the recruiting trail. Florida has seven outstanding commitments at this point and it will not be surprising if the Gators have one of the top three or four recruiting classes in the nation pretty much nailed down by the opening game against Wyoming, September 3.

There is tremendous momentum in Florida's recruiting right now. There are at least four players ready toying with the thought of pulling the trigger on a commitment before the big junior day on the weekend of July 22. That junior day is going to be a virtual who's who among the nation's high school elite. Some of the players who will be coming to that event have already hinted that they are thinking to use this weekend as the springboard to announce their college plans. There's no doubt that Florida could be tossing daggers in the hearts of opposing team's recruiting coordinators if all goes well on that weekend.

And if you need any further convincing that the Meyer recruiting approach is working, consider this. The nation's number one prospect is defensive back Myron Rolle out of The Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey. He's got his college choices narrowed down to five schools and on August 5, the School Out West will become the last of the five to earn his unofficial visit.

When he leaves Tallahassee, Rolle won't be heading to New Jersey. He's let it be known that his next stop will be Gainesville for a return unofficial visit. Within a couple of weeks after that, he will be making his final choice known nationally.

If Meyer's approach to recruiting was all smoke and mirrors, then you can bet the ranch that Rolle wouldn't be tripping on down to Florida immediately after paying a visit to the School Out West. There is a monster recruiting class brewing here at Florida and squarely behind the push is the theme of "one percent of the one percent."

Opposing fans may laugh and ridicule all they want, but when Florida's class is assembled and compared to theirs, they might not be laughing quite so hard.

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