Parting Thoughts Q&A: Rick Wells Part I

Aug 7, 2022 | 7 comments

Parting Thoughts Q&A

During each off-season, Inside the Gators interviews departing seniors and early-entry juniors for a recap of their time at Florida as part of our Parting Thoughts series.

In this four-part interview, no topic was off-limits as we discussed Rick Wells’ past six seasons in a journey kicked off under the lights of Jim McElwain’s Gators, through Dan Mullen’s tenure, just short of Billy Napier’s revamped Florida dream.

The goal of this feature is to give our readers an honest and freely expressive look at the Florida football team and an unapologetic look at one of its many faces.

Today, take a dive into Wells’ experience at Florida beyond practice and game day beginning with his rocky start in Gainesville and moving along the regimes that have shaped Florida’s recent history through the lens, or rather the visor of one of its own.

You are one of the absolute few college football players to have six years of eligibility. So, let’s go back to the beginning. You signed with Florida out of Jacksonville. Who else was really in the running going back to that time?

Wells: Coach Skip recruited me back then. Coach Skip (Tim Skipper) and coach Mac (Jim McElwain) came to the school and really told me what it was, what they were trying to do. I liked what they were saying so I went with them.

Was there any other school in contention?

Wells: Yeah, South Carolina was really like my first choice, well not really like my first choice but down the line they started getting close, but coach Spurrier left. Him and his son were recruiting me. But when he left, I was with Florida all the way.

Why Florida?

Wells: I mean, it was close to home and then my people didn’t have the funds to go to — say I would’ve gone to North Carolina or Virginia Tech or something. They wouldn’t be able to come to my games, I won’t be able to see family. It would’ve been really hard for them to travel. Florida was a top school academically too. The degree from them is really helping out right now. I have a good job.

Tyrie Cleveland signed with UF out of Houston but was originally from Jacksonville. What was your relationship like with him? Were you guys actually related by blood or is that just something people said?

Wells: We’re not related by blood but where we’re from if you’re raised together, you’re basically cousins. You’re basically blood. I watched this man grow up, he watched me grow up. We went to school and saw each other every day, we actually hung out like that’s my dawg to this day.

What did it mean for you to go to Florida with him?

Wells: It was cool because he had gone to Texas. I remember we were in class, and he ended up getting called out of class. Next thing you know, he didn’t come back. We ended up hitting each other up on social media letting him know “we’re trying to this and whatever,” and it worked out —God’s plan.

Looking at that 2016 class you came in with some guys who surpassed their ranking and some who kind of didn’t feel up to it. Who from that class are you surprised didn’t have a better career?

Wells: I’ll say AC [Antonneous Clayton]. The way he worked, and I can only speak from what I see on the field and practice wise, this man worked hard for real. I’m not talking about just one play. This man really tried every play to go his hardest. It might’ve looked weird to people, like he might be trying to overdo it. But to me man, this man worked his butt off for real. I don’t know with him transferring and the relationship with him and his coach, I don’t know how that was. But from what I saw, bro was a dog for real. I don’t know if he was messing up every play, all I know is he was going a hundred.

Who do you think did better than expected then?

Wells: I don’t really know. That’s why I said everybody really did their thing. Most people might think that they might’ve not done the most that they could’ve. But from what I saw, most people in my class were really ballers.

How do you feel about how your career unfolded?

Wells: I don’t really have any regrets because I did what I did. It’s just some people in college might not get a fair shot or they might be judged for some things. I feel like I balled, I tried my hardest. Every day I woke up and tried my hardest no matter what.

You were in the same class as Kyle Trask and Feleipe Franks. How were the two differ on and off the field?

Wells: I mean they’re different in different ways. One person [Trask] is chill, and the next person [Franks] is a more outgoing guy. Everybody goes out, everybody doesn’t just sit in the house in college. Everybody goes out and does their thing.

It’s college everybody’s personality is different. Kyle is more chill. Feleipe, he’s more outgoing, he wants to have fun. There’s nothing wrong with having fun. Everybody needs a moment just to get away from a lot of sh*t that athletes go through, it’s stressful as h*ll. Not everyone is going to sit in the house, practice is hard as h*ll.

What was it like to have to see Chauncey Gardner Johnson on the opposite side of the ball every practice? Any examples of him getting under teammates or opponents’ skin or them having an issue with him?

Wells: Bro was a dawg for real on the field. He’s going to work hard and he’s going to be him. He’s going to ball. He wants the best out of himself.

Have you ever been around someone who could get into your head like that? That talked so much?

Wells: I mean everybody talks their sh*t; some might talk more. I don’t know. It’s just probably how I grew up.

How I grew up playing football, everybody talks sh*t. People might say personal sh*t because they really know you. I probably was just used to it. But like he used to get in people’s heads for sure. He really used to f*ck with people. I’m talking about like he’ll really get you out of your game.

Any stories?

Wells: There are so many stories I can’t even remember. Just know he’ll get in your head and get you really like, “I don’t want to talk sh*t, I don’t even want to play no more I just want to talk to this man.”

Now let’s talk a little bit about you and your first two seasons. I know they were pretty hard, a lot of stuff going on off the field, but we really want to hear what you have to say. So, your first two seasons you made more news off the field than on it. You didn’t really see any action and you had a couple of incidents off it, what was going through your head back then?

Wells: College was new to me. Coming from my school and getting to college, I experienced so much new stuff that was coming so fast. I didn’t know about fall camp. I just thought I’d get to college and play football. We practiced and played football. I didn’t know we had to do all this.

What was it that really caught you by surprise?

Wells: It was just the intensity of it. I wouldn’t say that the intensity was too fast, it was just that coming from my school…we used to work hard. We used to work our ass off, practice was no light issue.

It was just the waking up at this time, then you got to do this, then you got to do that, then you have to come back, then you got to do this. My body just wasn’t used to it. So, it kind of hurt me. Then I got hurt. I just had to get my body equipped to the intensity.

Was it going through a maturing process?

Wells: I was just maturing. I had to understand the business. I didn’t really understand we had to go to meetings. All of that was really new to me.

Do you feel like that’s something that guys might struggle with today?

Wells: I think most people get caught up in social media. Social media really takes the fun out of the game. It can make it interesting too. I just think that most people, when they get to college, the coaches don’t really tell them what they’re getting themselves into. You’re going to really have to handle your business. I think most people think that college is just “They’re going to just practice, they’re just going to play.” But everyone isn’t going to play.

In my opinion there’s other stuff that goes on behind the scenes. It’s just politics. Everything looks good on social media when they’re talking to you. But when you get in there it might be different. It might go that way for the other people, go exactly what they’re telling them.

In my opinion, if they want you to play, you’re going to play. You can do anything possible. If the coaches want you to play, you’re going to play. If they don’t, you’re not going to play. That’s just what it is. It’s just politics.

I just want kids to really understand politics. Don’t be basing it off school, really do what’s best for you. The school will help you out for sure. Education like in Florida h*ll yeah. I love the school of Florida I swear to God, that’s my favorite school.

I don’t know, it’s just people have to understand people. That’s all it is. They have to know who they’re dealing with. I’m not going to say they’ll trick you, but business is business.

You mentioned social media as a negative factor for players, how so?

Wells: With recruiting right now, it’s so tricky because people want offers so bad. The offers they want might not be the school for them. That’s why you have to know who you’re dealing with. A coach is going to really tell you “Listen we’re going to bring you in, were not going to play you off rip. We want you to develop.”

They don’t really let kids know that. They just say, “We’re going to bring you in, you’re going to play,” or they don’t even say you’re going to play. They might not even talk about playing just yet if the kid doesn’t ask them questions.

The kid might just be excited they’re there and the family might just be happy as h*ll — this the first person to ever go to college. They might just be excited that the person is there and don’t even know the questions to ask. To really know what’s going to happen with their kid when they go away from them, the coaches don’t really tell them “Listen, when you come in we might think about redshirting you.”

When the kid gets there, he might be thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to play.’ But when the game comes, or come gametime and fall camp, that boy isn’t nowhere near the ones and twos at all. Now he’s shell-shocked, he’s depressed. Like ‘Damn, I know I can ball like what’s up?” Now the coach might be acting weird now because he has to handle his business. He doesn’t have time to step aside and talk. It’s just crazy, it’s business.

That’s why I say that kids have to really understand business and now this NIL sh*t. You have to really understand business. It’s realer now that more money is involved.

Like “Hey man I’m trying to come play, what you thinking? Do I really have a chance?” Coach might just tell them “Oh yeah, you have a chance.” Knowing in his mind that he’s got two dogs who’ve been waiting. He doesn’t tell them all that. He doesn’t tell them that he has two dogs that’ve been waiting.

“You’re going to have to sit behind them. You might have to learn the offense. The offense is complicated.” They don’t give them the playbook ahead of time. If you really want somebody to come to your school, you’re going to give them boys the playbook.

If you want somebody to come to your school, you’re going to express that to them. “We really want you.” This is business and they offer a lot of kids. There’s a lot of people that play football.

Do you feel like Florida does a good job of keeping it real with recruits?

Wells: H*ll yeah, coach Mac, h*ll yeah. Coach Mac was the realest coach, the coolest coach, the most about his people coach. He’s going to do what’s best for his players. That’s just me, and my relationship with him dealing with me and seeing what he did with other people.

He’s not going to walk right past you and not say anything. He’s going to say what’s up and ask you how your day’s going, how class is going. He was just a people coach.

He’s going to let you know “Come on now let’s get ready. Hey, I’m trying to play you this week.” He’s going to tell you that sh*t. He’s going to make you want to get ready like “Oh h*ll yeah, I’m trying to practice.” That’s why I say you have to know who you’re dealing with.

Not to rehash old stories, but everything in your past is part of who you are today. Let’s talk about the bb gun incident. Was that just immaturity?

Wells: I will just say like with the bb gun thing, it’s just really having fun. You’re not even acting like nothing is going to happen. But you might not even be the one with it. Somebody might come to you with it. You’re chilling the whole day, and somebody might come messing with you.

Nothing was going on, but now you’re interested. You want to play back. People might try to come get you, you just have to know when’s the right place. Especially, when you know where you come from, you have to move right.

That’s all it was, I just wasn’t thinking in playful mode. I was chilling all day, I was bored. I was just vibing, I wanted something to do. That’s all it was, and I wasn’t even the one with it. Them folks came to our door with it. You have to know when to make the right decisions, when to have fun, when it’s too much fun. That was just on me.

The debit card stuff. How did all of that go down?

Wells: Same story. You might not even be the one with it. You might just not want to tell on your homeboys. That was on me though. I can’t even be mad about it; it was on me. That happened like five — six years ago the whole incident. That’s why I say you have to know what you’re doing. When it’s too much fun because that literally took five to 20 seconds.

What was it like sitting out that whole year?

Wells: That sh*t was depressing, depressing I’m telling you. Stress, anxiety, all that sh*t. I still suffer from that sh*t. Not from just football but life in general. Hair falling out, all types of sh*t. I’m soldier life though. Nothing’s ever going to break me. It’s just crazy.

Just imagine you’re playing football all of your life. All you do is play football. This is all you did all your life, just play football. You’re thinking when you get to college all you’re going to do is play football. You never did nothing else in your life and then you don’t get to do that for two years, don’t touch a football.

You might work out on your own but you’re not really in the group. Then you’re not really around your homeboys. You’re not really competing. You’re not really showing you’re a dog, showing where you come from, what you stand for. You don’t get to do that. That’ll really mess your head up.

You have nothing to do, just going to school. Going to class. You might try to work out — I told myself I was going to work out every day. Working out every day just made me madder. Then you’re just like “Man, I don’t want to play this sh*t anymore.” Then you think about doing other sh*t.

Why stick it out at Florida instead of getting a fresh start somewhere else?

Wells: I thought about it like this: My family is so loyal. It just goes back to how I was raised. When you make a commitment, you stick with it. When you tell somebody your word. I didn’t sign to no coach, I signed to real people. That’s when I talk about coaches, I named them. I look at those coaches as real people, as real human beings. They aren’t just titleless coaches.

I signed to real coaches. I signed to some real people. I signed to the University of Florida.

Was there anyone at Florida who helped you through those times?

Wells: Tyrie for sure that’s my dawg. KT [Kadarius Toney] later on down the line. If it wasn’t for KT or Tyrie, I probably wouldn’t have even stayed for real for real. I’m not even talking about staying in Florida. I mean I wouldn’t have even played ball. I was thinking about quitting. I told my mom and everything, “I don’t even want to play anymore.”

I talked to my cousin, he’s locked up and that’s who I really play for. He’s one of the main reasons I stayed at Florida. Them boys doing life in prison. They didn’t fold, so they told me “Don’t fold.” Why would I let this break me? You can’t let people determine your life. You have to choose your own life. You can’t let nothing break you. That’s just what I had determined in my head.

Being alone those two years, you’re going to sit in the room with some dark nights. You’re going to really think, let some tears out. That just how I am, I don’t like to cry. I don’t like crying. The interview really makes me want to tear up. It’s just crazy. There’s just so much I went through.

You just have to know who you’re dealing with, the people. That’s just what it is.

Is there anyone in the Florida locker-room now like that can be that guy for others?

Wells: There’s a lot of dudes in there right now. Right now, the coaches are so different from when I came, from where I’m from. They’re different people. Coming from where I’m coming from, you might not be able to really understand why a person doing this or talking like this. I don’t judge nobody because I’ve seen the worse.

It kind of makes you feel weird. Like “Damn, should I say this, should I even talk right now?” There are some dudes in there for sure like Ventrell (Miller), Nay’ Quan Wright, people persons, like Chief (Borders). People who aren’t afraid of being themselves. Xzavier Henderson, all the young receivers. They’re not pretenders, they’re really themselves. That’s what’s going to make the coaching better. Not people in the locker room pretending. There’s a lot of more dudes for sure like Richard Gouraige, dudes like that — real gentlemen.

Do you think your past has made you look out for the young guys in the locker room more?

Wells: Where I come from, my people take care of everybody. If you come to my city right now, come to my street, my grandma would look out for you. Cook you a meal with whatever’s in the kitchen. That’s just how my people are, especially if you come with me. I’m just a people person. I don’t want to see nobody fail. I just want to help everybody. I love everybody I swear. “love everybody,” I got that tatted on me.

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