FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Getting to Know: Offensive Line Signee Christian Williams
- Florida is the perfect fit for Miller to fulfill his promise
- Napier described as patient, genuine, with a detailed approach
- Resetting the Board: 12 targets to watch
- 15 players who are the Foundation of Florida Football
- Napier has a plan in place
- Coaching search consultant Landry goes in-depth on Mullen and Napier
As the transition from one regime to the next for the Florida Gators continues, Inside the Gators stops to speak with those that are inundated with the topsy-turvy world of college football and even more so the roller coaster that has been the Florida team of late.
This group understands what it is like to go through the recruiting process in order to help someone close to their heart make the biggest decision of their young lives.
Their interest, however, unlike coaches or administrators, scouts or agents, doesn’t lie solely with the success of the team. These are the parents, a group largely forgotten in the discussion, the ones who are learning to skirt the fine line between protecting their child and letting them grow up.
They have been through the fire and have come out armed with advice for future parents.
Up first is Gillian Conner, the mother of Florida offensive line signee David Conner.
- Part One: David Conner’s mother
- Part Two: Chris McClellan's mother
- Part Three: Kamari Wilson's mother
Q: How would you describe the recruiting process for your son and your family?
A: The recruiting process was—with the first staff it seemed to be easy. They seemed to really like him, and with the changes in staff, It got a little nerve-racking because they only had a week to really put things together before the official visit. But when I spoke to someone on the new staff it was very easy. They just let me know to be ready to go on Friday. So, it was very easy.
Q: If you had the power, what is one thing you would change about the recruiting process?
A: The only thing I would have changed about the recruiting process is that there not be a staff change in the middle of it. Other than that, it was just fine.
Q: Your son had multiple schools to pick from, but he chose a Florida program that is basically starting over and one where he doesn't have a lot of background with the current staff. Why make that leap?
A: Well, when he heard Florida was offering him, we all were excited even though we are die-hard Georgia fans. We, all of our family, have converted over to Florida. When we heard the University of Florida Gators, we were all in.
Q: Has that been a hard transition to go from die-hard Bulldog fans to having to embrace Florida?
A: Absolutely not, especially for the immediate family. We were all in. We abandoned ship immediately.
Q: Your son officially visited that final weekend before Early Signing Day, what was that visit like?
A: Well, that visit was amazing. From picking us up at our house to you know taking us to the airport everything was easy. If we weren’t committed, solidly committed, we were after that visit. It was a very good visit. It felt like family. The hosts were very hospitable. It was a very good visit.
Q: What was your initial impression of Billy Napier?
A: My initial impression, I loved him. He seems like a quiet thunder I would say. He seems very personable, very nice, but at the same time, it doesn’t seem like he takes any stuff. So, I told David to be ready.
Q: And what was your initial impression of that visit before Early Signing Day and getting to meet part of the new staff?
A: The entire staff was, like I said personable. And what impressed me about the staff, they spoke very highly of Billy Napier, So, it seemed like they enjoyed working with him and for him, so that made me comfortable with sending my baby – and yes, I said my baby, even though he’s 6-foot-6, my baby – to Florida.
Q: Do you have any interesting recruiting stories to share whether it was with Mullen’s staff or Napier’s staff?
A: No. I can’t think of anything interesting. Just that nerve-racking week between the transition of Napier from Louisiana, but other than that, no I don’t have anything interesting to share.
Q: How nerve-racking was that week for you as a mom?
A: Well, I probably stressed David out more than anything. I kept calling and saying, “Are we still going?”; “Are they interested?”; “Do you know?”; “Have you heard anything?” I was calling and texting him like maybe four, five times a day, so I probably stressed him out a lot more than anything.
Q: How big a shock was it that Dan Mullen and his staff were let go?
A: It just made us nervous, because you didn’t know who was coming if they would still be interested in David. Because like I said, when we heard Florida Gators, we were ready to go. We were ready to commit. So when the change came, it just made us a little nervous just hoping and wondering if they were going to like him and be interested in him still coming to Florida.
Q: David was one of the few prospects who was committed under the previous staff that stayed on the commitment list after the coaching change. Why is that? What did he see in UF that made him want to still be a Gator?
A: What he said was the word family. He said, family. Some of the staff—the recruiting staff—were still there. It just felt like family to him. He said when they offered him, it felt like home.
Q: Going back in time, at what point did you start to believe that your son was a special football player and would be able to play at the college level?
A: Well, I would say when he was six. When he was six, and he first started playing. He got the nickname “Wild Man,” from his coaches because he was all in. He was ready to hit. Whatever he had to do to go to the ball, he went to that ball. So, if you had the ball, you had to watch out. So, at six, when he was playing little league, there was a coach that came up to me and said, “Oh he’s going to be D1.” And I didn’t know anything about football to be honest or college football so I just kind of took what he said and went on with it. He kept playing. He never wavered from his interest in football. He played baseball. He played a little basketball, but football was always his first love. So, as he grew, and I will say he started out as a baby he was almost 12 pounds and two feet long when he was born. He’s always been big. He’s always been tough. Early on, I knew he had something special. And I would say about middle school, he said to me, “Mom, you’re not going to have to pay for college.”
And I said, “okay son.” I didn’t want to bust his bubble or anything or say anything negative. But I was kind of like, “But if I do it’s cool it doesn’t matter. Do your best.”
But I would just say it all became a reality this year 2021, that it was really possible that he would go to a D1 school, and I didn’t have to pay for it.
Q: If you could say anything to the Gator Nation, what would you want fans to know about your son?
A: I would want them to know, he is tough. He is coachable. And he’s willing to do anything to win. So whatever the coaches tell him to do, whatever he needs to do to win—Go Gators! That’s it.