Parental Perspective: Florida Football Parental RoundTable I

Florida Football RoundTable

by Alyssa Britton-Harr
1 comment

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Inside the Gators, Alyssa Britton-Harr spoke with offensive lineman Richie Leonard’s parents Prishonda and Rich Leonard as well as Shae Boyd, the mother of defensive tackle Chris McClellan for Part I of our Florida Football Parental Roundtable

Here are their responses:

While there is a point where parents have to let their children go, you obviously still want to be updated on what is going on with them. What is the interaction like with the Florida staff and you as a parent of a player?

Shae Boyd: “I would mainly say that we communicate with Diane Lebron; she keeps us very much in tune with what is going on with the team, and they also have a parents group on WhatsApp where they share information. That helps me out a lot, especially being out of state.”

Prishonda Leonard: “We have a really good relationship with Coach [Rob] Sale and Coach [Darnell ] Stapelton; I will randomly get a Facetime call from Sale, he is always checking up on me, and we both know if we need to pick up the phone and call them for any reason we could do that.”

Rich Leonard: “From a father’s standpoint, Coach [Billy] Napier and the staff have done everything they told us they were going to do coming in. I totally feel safe leaving my kid with them, and they have his best interest at heart.”

Speaking of interactions, what has your experience been like dealing with the Gator Nation either in person at games or online? Not only as far as your son goes, but the overall impression of how Florida fans are toward the team as well.

Shae Boyd: “Florida fans are extremely energetic; their online presence is amazing, especially on Facebook and Instagram. I thoroughly enjoy seeing all the different videos that fans post on TikTok at the game or even just from the schools’ point of view. I like to see the reactions; some of them are more spirited than others, and it’s interesting seeing all the perspectives.”

Prishonda Leonard: “It’s everywhere, and it does not matter what city or state we travel to; they are everywhere. When we were in Utah, a police officer from there was working the game and had a Florida Gator shirt underneath his uniform.”

Rich Leonard: “No place like the Swamp; it’s very unique. We have been to many games over the past three years, and Gator Nation is all over; it’s not just in the swamp and online. There was a massive crowd of Gator fans in Utah; they travel well, but overall, Gator Nation has got to be the strongest support in the nation for a university.”

What is it like, how do you deal with any sort of negative reactions from fans online or even from the media?

Shae Boyd: “I tend to bypass that kinda, and I don’t dwell on the negative things because I know what I see in person, and most people saying things online may claim to be Gators fans, and they’re not. They could be an impersonator from another school or a bot, so I tend not to focus on that because these people obviously do not know what is going on behind the scenes.”

Prishonda Leonard: “There has been some negative stuff we have seen online, but we just try to stay positive about everything. People like to talk about the OL that they need to do this and they need to do that, but if they’re not talking about us, then that’s a problem, too. Any fan interactions we have, we try to stay positive. We took a note from Richie when we were together in Louisiana; fans wanted to come up to him, and he is always respectful and gives everyone their time to talk.”

Rich Leonard: “It’s a little bit different, and we try not to because we have been here for a while now. We don’t feed into the negativity part of it. The old saying goes if they’re talking about you, that’s better than them not talking about you.”

What is your perception of NIL at Florida and college football in general? While only the very top players are making huge money, how do you feel about how your son is doing NIL wise? How much of a factor is NIL?

Shae Boyd: “Overall, it’s great because these kids are putting a lot on the line for these schools who are making millions of dollars off of ticket sales, concessions, and through the media. Most of them cannot work or don’t have any other source of income besides that, so it’s great. It can be lopsided, with the better players getting more, yes, but that’s how life is. With my son’s NIL deals, I think he is doing well with being able to maintain his lifestyle.”

Prishonda Leonard: “We have seen before NIL, and now, it can be tough on many families when a child plays a sport at the Division 1 level; everyone has to make a sacrifice. It takes some of the burden off some of the families, and they can use the money to help their families travel to the game and for their own usage. They deserve these kids do work hard.”

Rich Leonard: “As a former collegiate athlete many moons ago, NIL is great for the kids, and it’s a great thing for them to get paid for their name, image, and likeness. Most of these kids have been playing this sport since they were in diapers, and the next level with the NFL is not guaranteed for everybody. For them to cash in at the collegiate level, some use the money to support their families, kids, and even for families of their own.”

There’s one ‘free’ available transfer per player. How do you think that has changed the way coaches have dealt with players in general and your son in particular?

Shae Boyd: “My son specifically is committed; once he said he was going to Florida, he is going to Florida, and that is where he will be. I think everyone should be allowed to transfer at least once because you may go somewhere, and it may not be a good fit for you, whether it’s the coaching staff, the school environment, or the playing time, whatever it may be for that person. It’s unfair for someone to limit themselves and not reach their goals, being stuck somewhere where you can go somewhere and have a better opportunity. I disagree with kids doing it for the NIL deal because you’re just chasing the money, not necessarily your passion.”

Prishonda Leonard: “I do like that there is one transfer available per player; for every kid that goes to a school, some things don’t work out. They make these decisions when they are 16 and 17 years old, and sometimes they are swayed by family members, coaches, and what if it doesn’t work out for them. It gives them an opportunity without being penalized.”

Rich Leonard: “The ability to have that one transfer is definitely a benefit for both the players and the coaches. You have so many kids who have lost their careers or have been in a scuffle because they committed to a school, and maybe it didn’t work, and they’re stuck in that situation. In that one transfer, you can do due diligence, find a good landing spot to get to a program that needs a player of your caliber, and make the most out of the situation.”

What is your impression of Billy Napier, your son’s position coach, and the UF staff in general?

Shae Boyd: “I actually enjoy all of them every time I see them, whether it be before the game or after; everyone always has wonderful things to say about Chris. My experience with the current coaching staff has been awesome.”

Rich Leonard: “Coach has been great and has done everything he said he was going to do as it pertains to my son and my son’s well-being off of the field, not even on the field. They have done that on the field, and we are big fans of Coach Napier. The position coaches, Sale and Stapelton, are doing great things on the recruiting trail and with the OL. I like all the coaches; you all let Billy cook.”

Florida is off to a 5-2 start heading into the bye week. How closely does your family follow the team at this point? What do you think of where UF stands right now?

Shae Boyd: “I think we are in a great position for the season; I feel like we have quite a few more wins left in us. My family, specifically, I am at every game, and many of my family travel with me to the games. We are all in, and I can see us going to a bowl game this year.”

Rich Leonard: “We follow the game very closely; we have been to every game since our son was there. We are fully engaged and in the driver’s seat right now; this thing could go either way. If we come out and beat Georgia and take the East, it’s right there for us to do. I don’t think anyone thought at this point we would be 5-2.”

Is there an unshared or not widely known instance, funny story, anecdote, or anything you would like to share?

Prishonda Leonard: “Every week I see him in his uniform, there is a tear in my eye. The first time he came out as a freshman, I cried and broke down. It’s just amazing to see him living out one of his dreams. Especially now, being a starter and now a grown man, it brings a tear to my eye every week.”

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1 comment

  1. This is what makes me want him as the coach and why we need him to win games. Parents and players are behind him 1000% on how he runs the team.

    If we start winning more he can build a force in Gainesville.

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