Parental Perspective: Florida Football Parental RoundTable II

Florida Football RoundTable

by Alyssa Britton-Harr
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Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Inside the Gators, Alyssa Britton-Harr spoke with tight end Arlis Boardingham’s father Don Boardingham, and kicker Trey Smack’s father John Smack.

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 him. What is the interaction like with the Florida staff and you as a parent of a player?

Boardingham: “As far as I can see, we only saw from the initial visit that my wife had gone down and talked with the coaches and some of the players by going to the games. I went to the initial visit, but from what I can see, there was a really good interaction from the coaches, who were very attentive towards the kids, answering questions, and being very informative, and that’s what they needed. Many of them are coming into a new place and are blind, especially those coming from out of state. They get nervous in a new place, and Florida did a good job of easing them up. My son is from California came across the country, so it was a good thing for me. The position coach he was recruited with left his first year, and we interacted with them weekly; they were letting us know everything that was happening. The new coach has been interacting with my wife. I haven’t talked to him yet, but my wife has talked with him, and we are all on the same plan.”

Smack: “My experience has been that they are very accessible, and it’s clear who to talk to when you need to discuss something with them. They are very responsive, so it is an open line of communication.”

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.

Boardingham: “Florida fan’s reaction towards the team is great. When I can see a full stadium, and everybody is engaged, loud, wearing their Florida gear, and doing the Gator chant, that is super impressive. Being on the West Coast, I have seen UCLA and USC fans, and they don’t compare anything to the Florida fans.”

Smack: “We were kinda thrust into Gator Nation when Trey was offered the scholarship, but it’s a group with high expectations, that’s for sure. The Swamp is an amazing place, and we love going to games in the Swamp.”

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

Boardingham: “We kinda understand the media today, so when you do good, they love you; when you do bad, somebody has a comment. We take that as something where we can’t judge what we do based on people’s comments about who is good and who is bad. Everybody has a voice, we understand that, and everyone has an opinion. Some fans don’t like it if you don’t catch a ball, and they say your hands are bricks, or someone says you love you, and you’re the best thing since sliced bread; that’s okay. These are opinions we honor, too.”

Smack: “Well, I know with their national championships, they have set the bar very high, and they are excited to get back to that level of excellence. Maybe they don’t exercise as much patience as you might think they should, especially as Coach Napier is rebuilding a program. I think his hard work is really starting to bear some fruit.”

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?

Boardingham: “NIL is long overdue, and college football has piggybacked off the players for a long time. The players have been fighting for a long time, for a little more say so, regarding image and likeness, but it was a battle that has been fought. For many years, many players had to go without for the players this year to go ahead and receive. I honor the players who, in the past, had to fight so that the recent players can utilize some of that. Football and sports, in general, are big business, and if players do put themselves on the line, education is important, but being in the business, they should get paid. I am all for it, there will be some adjustments before it gets way out of hand, but right now, it’s great for college kids to understand the business side of sports.”

Smack: “Well, just being a sophomore and recently just becoming a starter, his expectations have not been real high with what his NIL would be. He has an agreement with the local marketing group for the non-profits, which has been great for him. He gets compensated for that, but he also gets to go out and deal with the different non-profits, such as the food pantry and the Ronald McDonald House. I don’t know what other people’s deals are, but I know my son is not disappointed in what his deals are, and there probably will be some things on the horizon for him if he keeps performing the way he has been in the last four or five weeks.”

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?

Boardingham: “In the past, there have been a lot of players who felt like they were stuck. Sometimes, players must understand that they must figure out the school and the coaches before they rush emotionally into another situation. It’s good for players who could not be used on one team but go to another and can become an MVP, so it’s not that the school was bad; it just wasn’t a fit for that player. Having that in your pocket is a good thing, and it’s bad because some players react off emotion.”

Smack: “It makes it hard for coaches with the way the transfer portal has evolved, and it also lends itself if someone is unhappy with their coach and wants to leave they can. Maybe it’s too lax, but I am sure the NCAA is always looking at it. My son knows it’s there, and he has seen guys he knew last year leave the team. I know he is pleased with where he is and how things are going for him. The Gators have benefitted from having Graham Mertz come in, and he has been doing well. A couple of the guys on defense have also come in. We did have some people leave with the turnover in coaches from Dan Mullen to Napier, and Mullen was the one who recruited Trey, but not all that turnover is bad. If you look at the stats, the Gators lead the country playing freshmen minutes, which shows how young the team is. Napier is starting to build the program the way he would like to have it.

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

Boardingham: “I like Billy Napier, and I also like his staff. When we met his staff, they all seemed like everyone was on a mission together, and it’s important to be on the same page: one team, one sound, one song. We got to talk to Billy the most on our visit when we went because we were at his table; we got to converse with him and got a good vibe. My family likes Billy Napier, we like his staff, we like what they are doing and the mission they are on. I like that they don’t give up and see the vision of what they want the Gators to be. We are glad to be a part of it; he gives a good impression to us. So, a thumbs up from the Boardingham family.”

Smack: “I think that Coach Napier is a fantastic leader. I was glad we got to spend time with him on several occasions. He made some changes from year one to year two and is building the staff the way he wants. We changed the defensive coordinator and brought in Billy Gonzales, and everything looks like it is about to take shape, and we are excited.

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?

Boardingham: “Arlis’s sister is a two-time high school and college record breaker, and he had a good role model to follow as far as being a champion. His mom is into football more than most, and I am into football, and I have been coaching and training for over 20 years. We follow it very closely, we look at the numbers, we call plays like we are there on the field from the couch, and sometimes our plays don’t work, and sometimes Billy Napier’s plays do. The team is doing well, and sometimes, when you have a lot of freshmen, you have to wait, and many fans are impatient, but you do have to wait for that magic. When the youth of players come in, the time will come. They are doing well this year, and we are heading into a heavy storm with some good teams; we have the talent to take these teams. If it’s not this year, it will definitely be next year, and they will get better as they continue.”

Smack: “We follow it very closely, and I think we have had a couple of good wins. We were in Kentucky, and it was a little disappointing with the result we had in Lexington. We also were in Utah and enjoyed that trip, and the game didn’t entirely turn out how we wanted it to. We have had a couple of good wins and a win on the road; we are excited to go to Georgia to start the second half of the season.”

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

Boardingham: “We chose Florida and had a lot of other schools that wanted him, but we chose Florida for the warmth they gave us when we went down there. They were our fourth visit, so we did have other visits, and when we got down there, they were organized and kept us busy. We had a good feeling in Florida, and the people were nice. Arlis loves it; he has grown up in California his whole life, but he says Florida is a great place to be, and this is something he has always wanted to do to play for a great college.”

Smack: “He is having an amazing time at the University of Florida, with academics, socially, and on the football field. We are very pleased that this is where he has decided to go and spend his time. He has an interesting group of roommates with Rocco Underwood, Austin Barber, and Hayden Clem. I know all those guys have a great time living together, and I am happy with all he is accomplishing. Also, with the All-SEC Academic Honors that he got, I am very proud of that for him. He is building a foundation for the rest of his life, and I am excited for him.”

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