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Hornsby was at the Florida-Florida State game last Saturday night when the Gators disemboweled the Noles 34-7 in front of a frenzied crowd of 90,000-plus at The Swamp and a national television audience. When the game was over, Hornsby joined the Gators in the locker room for a celebration that concluded with a reward for his recruiting efforts. There were several commitments in the locker room that night.
"Those were my guys I was recruiting," he said. "I had to work hard to get them there."
The Swamp that night was a good catalyst to light up the recruiting fires. Hornsby described it best.
"It was electrifying … it was crazy," he said. "I have been there four or five times this year but it was the best. The locker room was great they were jumping all around and all the commitments started rolling in. A lot of people said they wanted to commit, but they weren't going to do it then. I know a few more that are coming but they aren't making it public right now. Being that close to the field and having the fans yelling your name, that was crazy."
One recruit that Florida wants and Hornsby is working on diligently didn't commit that night and that was Tim Tebow, the five-star rated quarterback out of Ponte Vedra Nease. Tebow won't be making his decision public until December 14 in a nationally televised press conference on ESPN.
"Recruiting Tebow is like walking through a brick wall, but I am trying," Hornsby said. "He is going to keep everyone guessing until that day."
Hornsby has been recruited to play offense for the Gators and though he wants to be a wide receiver, he is willing to play defense if it will get him on the field faster. He has a torn ACL that will require surgery and rehab.
"They have talked to me about defense but I want to play what is going to get on the field first," he said. "I am having surgery on Dec.19th. They want to wait till I get more flexibility and more strength in my calf muscles. I'll be there in the fall."
Hornsby was hoping to start at the University of Florida in January but will instead enroll with his now growing freshman class in the summer of 2006. He will be there with the eight other players he helped recruit this last week.
Once Hornsby committed, Justin Williams of Folkston (GA) Charlton County made his decision. The 6-2, 187-pound wide receiver/cornerback didn't want to wait until the FSU game to announce although that had been his plan for weeks.
"I talked to my momma and my coach and they decided I should go ahead and commit to the Gators," Williams said. "I like Coach Meyer and the rest of the coaches. They are good guys and so are the players. They want me as an athlete. I have a chance to play both offense and defense."
The celebrations in Gainesville were still going on after the FSU game when Florida got public commitments from safety Bryan Thomas of Zephyrhills, cornerback Jacques Rickerson of St. Augustine and wide receiver Jarred Fayson of Tampa Hillsborough.
Thomas was the first to roll. After calling me and leaving me a message that he had some big news, my return call netted an excited Thomas who really enjoyed his visit to Gainesville enough to pull the trigger. The 6-2, 192 pound four-star dynamo was also ready to go before the game but decided to do it during the frenzy.
"I told Coach Meyer earlier on Wednesday that I was going to make it official win or lose this game," Thomas said Saturday night. "I don't think he believed me … he was trying to blow it off. I just walked up to him and he shook my hand and he said, 'So?' And I told him let's make this a tradition for another four years."
Jarred Fayson was next. One of the fastest players in the state, he played quarterback but at Florida he's going to play wide receiver. He's a five-star rated athlete who is an absolute jitterbug with the ball in his hands. When Fayson has the ball there are a lot of would be tacklers who wind up grasping air.
"Jarred kind of made up his mind as we were sitting there watching the game," Fayson's guardian Harold Harper said Saturday night. "He talked with his mother (Carla Powell) and me during the game and he said that he just felt like it was time to get that monkey off of his back, I guess that you could say. He said that he feels like he's ready to make that decision and we support him 100%."
Jacques Rickerson also committed Saturday night in front of the Gator team and coaches. Most likely the top cornerback on the Gators recruiting board, the 5-10, 190-pound Rickerson has helped lead St. Augustine into the state finals against Sarasota Booker next week down in Miami.
"I committed to (Meyer) after the game," Rickerson said. "I said this is the place I want to be, and he said 'welcome to the family'. Basically it was about playing early. They are losing a lot of corners next year so that was big."
"It just really felt like home to me. My cousin, Jamar Hornsby, and I have been talking about it for a while. We were going to commit at the same time but he did it a little earlier than I did. It was very exciting! I didn't expect the score to be like that but sometimes it works out that way. Everybody was going crazy in the locker room congratulating each other. The coaches were glad to hear the news that some recruits were making commitments to Florida."
Next on the docket was Rickerson's half brother, Brandon James, of St. Augustine. The 5-7, 175-pound athlete is being recruited to Florida as a kick returner and a slot receiver. James is phenomenal with the ball in his hands in the open field. James held out over the weekend and then called Coach Meyer with his commitment on Monday morning following the big game.
"I committed to Florida this morning," said James on Monday. "After the unofficial visit I took this weekend, I took some time to sit down with my dad and my coach, and that was the place I wanted to be. I called up Coach Meyer this morning. He was happy and he wanted to know if I was sure about it and that he was happy to have me."
Tuesday evening Lawrence Marsh, a big time defensive end from Augusta (GA) Josey stood up in front of a crowd gathered at his high school basketball game and put on a Gator hat symbolizing his commitment to the University of Florida. After his visit to Gainesville for the Florida-FSU game, Marsh couldn't see himself anywhere else.
"I am committing to the University of Florida," he said. "The coaching staff makes it feel like home, and they have created a real good family atmosphere. I really like the coaches and I believe I will be taken care of for the next four or five years of my life, I strongly believe that Florida is real interested in academics --- it's one of their main objectives and if I leave with anything, I know I will leave with a degree.
"I like the stadium --- it was very loud, they have die-hard fans, and a pretty good campus. Florida is somewhere I want to be for my college career."
On Wednesday morning I got to wake up City College of San Francisco linebacker Larry Grant. The 6-3, 225-pound five-star junior college linebacker had actually committed on Monday to the Florida coaches but it took a couple of days before we could break his commitment.
"I called Coach Meyer on Monday and committed," said Grant, who will have a good chance to start next season. "On my visit there was something special about Florida that made me more comfortable than other visits. Coach Meyer told me congratulations and welcome to the Gator family."
Last but certainly not the least of the nine commitments in 16 days was tight end Trent Pupello of Tampa Jefferson. On just his second unofficial visit to the Gators this season, the son of a former Gator offensive lineman knew where he wanted to go on Wednesday morning. The 6-4, 250-pound Jeremy Shockey clone gave Urban Meyer a call on his way to school to pull the trigger.
"It was amazing," he said. "I had never been to a Florida-Florida State game. That just finished the deal for me. I really like Coach Meyer and the whole coaching staff. It was a good feeling up there. It was a better feeling than I had anywhere else.
"I woke up today (Wednesday) and my family and I knew it was time. I was riding in my car by myself and called Coach Meyer and said 'I want to be a Gator.' He said I made his day, and he was real happy to have me."
Don't expect this again this year Gator fans. The Gators have only about 10-14 more scholarships to give and I expect a slow but steady trickle of commitments between now and signing day. What Gator fans need to think about is making sure the Gators keep them all.