After Dan Mullen transformed Florida’s football program from 4-7 to Peach Bowl winners in just one year, it is safe to say the Gators are quickly becoming one of the most popular spots in the nation.
Case in point, the school signed its first top 10 class since 2014, boasting four players in the top 100 and four more in the top 151.
Obviously Florida did well in filling out the top end of its roster, however the untold tale of recruiting is getting those players who aren’t in the spotlight to join your program.
Every Division I football program has just 85 scholarships to build a team with, meaning that some really talented players have to make a decision: Get a free education at a lesser program or join one of the best teams in the country as a preferred walk-on (PWO).
For Lucas Alonso, the supposedly difficult decision was not much of a decision at all. Miami (Fla.) Westminster Christian School defensive tackle had scholarship offers from the University of Rhode Island, UCF and a walk-on offer from Georgia.
While the senior was weighing his options at first, none of those schools mattered when the University of Florida came calling.
Simply put, Alonso had just one word to describe the feeling when he got the call.
As for how the conversation went down, the defensive tackle remembers the experience verbatim.
“[Quarterbacks] Coach Brian Johnson called me one day to tell me he liked my film and that he was going to bring it to Coach Mullen,” Alonso told Inside the Gators. “Then, Coach Mullen told me he liked my film too and that [he and Johnson] were going to come to my school. They said they had five PWO spots and one of them was mine if I wanted it.”
There are 337 miles between Gainesville and Alonso’s native Miami. But, no distance was too far for Mullen to get his guy.
“The fact that a busy guy like Coach Mullen would take time out of his day to come to see me – who’s not even a scholarship player – really shows how much he truly cares about his players,” Alonso said.
The 6-foot-3, 285-pounder said that he consulted his family, then quickly committed to the school, despite never setting foot on campus.
His first visit will be this coming weekend.
“I’m excited to see the campus and where I’m going to be living for the next four years…it’s not just about football,” Alonso said. “It’s a great school. I could not pass up the opportunity to get an amazing education and play football for a top 10 team.”
Besides the old “balance of school and sport” that is so frequently brought up by Florida players, Alonso sees something special bubbling under the surface.
“What Coach Mullen is building there is remarkable. He says is getting the pieces he needs to win a National Championship and I truly believe it. I totally bought into everything and I just can’t wait to be a part of it.”