With Rickerson And James, Character Counts

Jacques Rickerson & Brandon James

ST. AUGUSTINE --- When it comes to character, Coach Urban Meyer considers it one of the cornerstones or recruiting. The Florida coach believes quality players who make sound decisions in their personal lives translates into wins on the field and the right kind of representation of the University of Florida off the field. He talks about kids who are that one percent of the one percent, a label that seems to perfectly fit Jacques Rickerson and Brandon James of St. Augustine.

What Rickerson and James have done on the playing field is well known and that has much to do with the reason Meyer recruited them to Florida in the first place. What probably sealed the deal for Meyer was when he got into the evaluation process and discovered the outstanding personal qualities and leadership abilities of this dynamic duo that has committed to the Gators.

I got a chance to see the quality of Rickerson and James up close and personal and I came away highly impressed. From the moment Rickerson and James stepped into Coach Joey Wiles' office this morning it was clearly evident that these two players are the one percent of the one percent that Meyer wants to recruit into the Florida program. By the time I left Coach Wiles' office, I was convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt that the pair are, to borrow a term from Meyer, "living right."

It was only a month ago in Miami that the St. Augustine Yellow Jackets capped a dream season by ripping Sarasota Booker, 31-15, for the FHSAA Class 3A State Championship. St. Augustine ran the table with a perfect 15-0 record as the Maroon and Gold won their first ever state title. St. Augustine's run was led by Rickerson and James, who will join another St. John's County player, Tim Tebow, in the Florida recruiting class. Tebow led Nease to the State 4A championship to cap an unprecedented year for St. John's County prep football teams.

Success for St. Augustine and Coach Wiles was measured both on and off the field. The coach stressed effort, responsibility, and a humble attitude and those traits formed the foundation of the Yellow Jackets. Leading the way by example were Rickerson and James, the embodiment of all the qualities and values that Wiles preaches for his team.

Wiles' relayed a couple of quick stories about the players that should drive the point home.

He said that when position coaches went to make the room checks the morning after the Jackets' state semifinal victory in Pensacola, everything was in place. However, James had requested a vacuum cleaner from housekeeping in the team hotel. He, Rickerson, and a few others were going to vacuum their rooms and even asked if they should make the beds before the Jackets checked out.

On another road trip the team went into a restaurant where there were only two waitresses on duty. Rather than turn a bad situation into a disaster, Rickerson and James told the waitresses not to worry, that the team would take care of their own tables and dirty dishes. Led by their senior stars, Wiles said the Jackets did just that, turning a potential disaster into a real display of character that the two waitresses will never forget.

During the 2005 season, Coach Meyer called senior cornerback Vernell Brown the face of Florida football because he was representative of all the things he believes are essential to a quality, winning football program. Coach Wiles has had two kids who have been the face of his program ---- Jacques Rickerson and Brandon James. Don't be surprised if these two kids represent Florida with the same integrity and pride that Vernell Brown did during his career.

Coach Wiles has every reason to expect that they will. After all, they were the face of St. Augustine football the past four years.

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