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Leesburg (Va.) Tuscarora 6-foot-8, 320-pound offensive tackle Fletcher Westphal shares his thoughts on why he picked Florida, his relationship with the Gators’ coaches, and what’s next for him.
Many had you pegged to Clemson, what was it that put Florida over the top?
“In the end, it did come down to Clemson and Florida. Florida is #5 and Clemson #31 ranked college [in the US News & World Report Public University Ranking], SEC vs ACC, location, and housing pushed me toward Florida. I like what Coach [Billy] Napier is building.”
To many, myself included, this is a surprise. Going into the recruiting process were the Gators really that high on your informal list? Are you at all surprised it ended up being Florida in the end?
“My Top 10 and Top Five both came from my rankings on two different spreadsheets my Dad created. It was to make sure we kept the thing the thing and everything stayed equal with every school. Since Florida was late with their offer, I was surprised they made my Top 10, but based on the 17 items on the spreadsheet, they did. Coach [Rob] Sale and Stape [Darnell Stapleton] visited my school something like six times since November. Basically, every possible chance they could, they did. I knew I was a priority so they definitely had my attention, but honestly, I didn’t know Florida would be my school until after the official visits.”
What was your initial impression when you met the Florida staff from Napier through the four offensive line coaches? And did it change over time?
“I first met Coach Napier and Sale during the Gator Walk for the South Carolina game. Right there, I knew something was different because there were a bunch of recruits at that game and they found me in the lineup on game day. They made me feel important from day one, and from there, it’s been all gas, no brakes.”
They made me feel important from day one, and from there, it’s been all gas, no brakes.Fletcher Westphal
When did you make the final decision?
“After the official visits, I took time to think about the whole process, the coaches, the players, and where I felt I fit best. I knew July 1, Florida was my everything school. On July 6th, I told my parents then Coach Napier, and then got on a two-way call with Coach Sale and Coach Stape and let them know I was going to be a Gator. There was a lot of yelling on the phone. I could tell they were happy.”
You told me on Sunday that you had already called the coaches to make your commitment to the school you picked and you were going to start contacting the schools you didn’t pick. How hard were those conversations?
“I already had some experience with this when I moved from my Top 10 to my Top Five. I have been building these relationships for a long time, so it was not easy, but I know coaches deal with this all the time. During our official visits, coaches told me and my parents how they respected how I had approached recruiting by keeping it about the right things and not NIL. Telling [Arkansas] Coach [Sam] Pittman and Coach [Cody] Kennedy was probably the hardest.”
Where does Florida see you lining up?
“I see myself being a tackle, and am ready to work.”
What’s next? Will you be at the Cookout later this month? Do you have any games circled to attend this season?
“I’ll be at the cookout on the [July] 29th. It’ll be my last trip for a bit since my senior season kicks off on August 1. My parents will be looking for houses during the visit. Everyone is excited about what’s next.”
What was the weirdest, wildest, strangest, most unusual thing to happen during the recruiting process?
“I didn’t really know what to expect during the recruitment process, but having 4-5 Power 5 college coaches on the sidelines at my high school practice or at my lifts was wild. They were coming from everywhere, from Stanford, Michigan, Arkansas, and Illinois and they kept showing up. A stranger making me their profile picture was wild. The guy on the plane next to me told me he recognized me because he had just read an article about me. I’m happy to be ranked, but I still don’t understand the whole star ranking system.”
Florida had a rough year last year, and many are projecting more of the same this season. How will this year’s on-the-field product impact your viewpoint of the Gators?
“I want a winning season, but if it’s not, my view will be the same because change doesn’t happen overnight. They are rebuilding the program from the inside out, and it is a process.”