Parting Thoughts Q&A: Rick Wells Part II

Aug 7, 2022 | 1 comment



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.


FLORIDA FOOTBALL PROGRAM 

How did the offseason strength and conditioning program under Dan Mullen and Nick Savage compare to that under Jim McElwain and Mike Kent?

Wells: It was different. Coach Savage and coach Mullen like businesswise — them boys knew what they were doing. Coach Savage is the most people person ever. He’s going to call you; he’s going to make sure you’re really alright.

In strength and conditioning, they really were different. You’re going to work on your body, you’re going to get stronger, you’re going to get faster, you’re going to get bigger. They’re going to make sure you eat this, make sure you’re this weight, hydrated. We used to take a hydration test before every practice. If you’re over the limit, then now they’re making sure you get water. They might assign someone to you to make sure you got water.

Their strength and conditioning really was different than with coach Mac. I’m not going to knock him for that, I’m not really sure what was going on businesswise with that — it might’ve been a money thing. We just didn’t work on our body like that. It was like stretching, we were flexible, real flexible. We could run, we just weren’t big compared to everybody else. We were small.

There has been talk that players weren’t held accountable or to a high standard by Kent and staff. What are your thoughts? How did that change under Mullen and Savage?

Wells: You know everybody is going to try to set the standard, don’t get me wrong. It’s up to the players to buy into that. People think it’s coaches. “Oh, coaches not doing this” The coaches not going out there playing. Coaches are only really going to tell you what to do. That’s why I say it goes back to relationships.

If you have a relationship with your player and you really loving this dude, you want him to succeed even if he is playing or not. If it’s someone who loves you — “Man I know coach got my back.” Man, I’m going to go through a brick wall for him. “I’m going to go all out for you coach,” that’s just how it is and it wasn’t like that. It just wasn’t like that. People did what they wanted to, that’s just how it was.

When Mullen and them came in they set the standard. People believed in it. They showed it worked.

Florida may not be up to par with some of the other southeastern powers from a facilities standpoint, but how much does that matter to a player?

Wells: It matters big time, especially if you’re not getting the meals. Meals and being able to really work on your body. Training room might be full, then they might close, you’ve been in the shower though. You might’ve been on the field getting some extra work in, you might stay an extra 30 minutes later, 45 minutes later.

You get to the locker room; there might be six-seven people in there. But they were doing the same thing you’re doing. But while they’re doing that, other people have been in the training room. But the training room closes at a certain time, it’s a business. They close at a certain time so you might not get to work on your body that day. You can’t take the equipment home. So, now you’re hurting.

That’s why I say the new facility is going to have more space, it’s new. You have to be new. You have to get out of tradition. Tradition is everything but you have to make something new. You have to pay more attention.

The facilities and food…and then the funds. We used to get a check like the first and the 15th. We used to be hurting for real. You’d get a $1,000 rent check. Your rent might be $800, not including the utilities. Now you’re down. You have to put gas in your car. Then you might not like the food that they made for you at training table, so you have to buy some food. Let alone you don’t get paid again until the 15th.

That’s why I say it’s a business. Coach Mac, he made sure his players were straight. We were straight, we were good, we were happy to be there. It’s just people weren’t listening I guess.

At first everybody was all bought in and then stuff was going on behind the scenes. I don’t really know what’s going on. We were worried that coach Mac was going to get fired. When you hear your coach is going to get fired…we were like, “What the f*ck? What’re we playing for? Why’re we going to practice? Why’re we doing this?’ You might want to go to practice. You might be stressed out like, “Man, I don’t want to go to practice.”

For two years I was stressed out.

All I wanted to do was practice. I didn’t care anything about a game. I just wanted to practice to show people I can ball. I swear. That’s all I wanted to do in college. Show people I can ball, where I come from, what we stand for and did what we do, and what type of person I am.

What is a priority for the average player – an IPF, a football facility, modern dorms, an academic building, a nicer locker room/players’ lounge area?

Wells: We didn’t have no players’ lounge. They brought the players’ lounge out into the locker room and put TVs right there. No knock to Florida, I love that school I swear to God. It’s just like I said — it’s a business. I guess they didn’t want to spend money. You see that they redid the locker rooms. That was the best thing.

The dorms are small. You ever seen the other schools’ dorms? Like Miami and their dorms? Their dorms are pretty. They don’t make you want to leave. Why would I go outside if I could sit in the house? I don’t have to look at just brick walls. Over there, it’s straight scenic walls. There’s one window in each room here. Like what are we in? A cell?

How would you rank their importance? Is the IPF most important? Then dorms? Then academic building?

Wells: The academic room h*ll yeah. People go to the academic room to chill and get peace. Ms. Kelley (Kelley Catenacci), all of them. Ms. Kelley helped me through all of college. That’s who they don’t recognize for real. She’s the academic advisor. She’s going to make sure everybody is straight, you’re good on all your books, she isn’t going to let you fail. She really loves people; she really loves her job for real for real.

What do you think UF does well as a program relative to others?

Wells: The degree, the tradition of the school. There are some beautiful people that come through that school don’t get me wrong. You meet new people. That was one of my struggles, meeting new people.

What the degree stands for no matter the condition. You’re going to go through something and like I said it goes back to the people. You’re going to run into somebody who’s going to help you. I just love the school.

Is there anything that stands out as something Florida could do better?

Wells: They did better. They brought in coach Napier. You see what he did. They made them boys parking good, pool good, come on bro. They did the best thing they could’ve ever done.

Imagine you have nowhere to park and you’re getting a ticket every day. But you only get paid on the first and the 15th now, shout out to that. Them tickets $35 rounding up every day. You don’t have a scooter; you have a real-life car. Where are you going to park at? People know what’s going on, that’s why I say it goes back to the business. You have to know how to spend money.

Is Florida stuck in tradition or does it do a good job of listening to what players and fans want?

Wells: Not anymore, I just said who they brought in. Things are going to change, that’s just how I feel. From what I’ve seen, and I know who’s there, and I know who’s in the locker room from what I just got done playing with. Man, them boys are going to ball this year. I promise.

The people actually want to come to the facility. They don’t have to worry about anything but football. That’s how it’s supposed to be when you get to college right? They’re supposed to take care of you. They’re your parents. That’s what they tell you when they come in your house. They tell you they’re your parents basically. They’re going to take care of you however long you’re there.

If they don’t take care of you it’s going to show. Whatever it is, it’s going to show. When people get taken care of they win. When coach Mac was there when he first got there. What happened? They won. When we were there, they won. They were beating people. Play Alabama and all types of sh*t, I was there. People were good, still good.

That shows you what happens when the business is good. I’ve been here six years. I know when the business is good and when the business ain’t good. It shows in the records, whatever, players, performance, it shows.

When coach Mac was there, we were eating good. Eating great, buffet.

Imagine getting out of practice, you ain’t got nothing. You have to eat some egg rolls. Man, what? It might be some food that’s been there all day and you have to eat that. Man, come on.

They done got some Spanish food or some Mexican food or whatever. They ain’t got no Chipotle or no Subway. They just had something in the hotbox like you’re eating free lunch for real, and it showed. We were good, don’t get me wrong. Every player on that roster was raw. It’s just we weren’t getting taken care of. We had to worry about other stuff.

JIM MCELWAIN ERA

McElwain seems to have a laid-back persona in public. Does he have a different, perhaps even fiery, personality behind closed doors?

Wells: H*ll yeah, he be tightening up. If you mess up, he’s going to get on your a**. He just wants the best for you, that’s all it is. Once somebody wants the best for you, they can be themselves with you.

Around the time of Hurricane Irma and even the win over Tennessee, McElwain seemed to be in some sort of funk. Did you and/or the team see a noticeable difference in him that week?

Wells: Everybody knows what’s going on bro. Everybody in the locker room is locked in a certain way according to your status, that’s just how it is. That’s just how it is in the real world. Before you hear something, you hear it from another person. People put two and two together and that’s just how it worked out.

Everybody knew and he was a straight-up dude. He told us what it was.

He didn’t tell us word for word what it was. He didn’t say, “Hey, I’m going to get fired.” He was a straight-up dude; he wasn’t going to just leave. He’s not going to up and leave, he’s going to tell you because he loves you. “Man, I’m going to go, I want the best for y’all.”

It’s real life, it happens.

What was your initial reaction to McElwain’s claim that players had received death threats?

Wells: They probably did. These fans…fans are the worse. We got some great fans and there’s some fans — listen here, they’ll cheer for you then they’ll one second… “I’m going to come to your house.” Come to who house? Come on. I’m stressed out too. Come on.

How did he address that with the team?

Wells: When people love you, they’re going to make sure you’re safe. They’re going to make sure you ain’t got no worries but football. They’re going to make sure you’re alright and that’s what he did. He made sure his players were alright no matter what.

DAN MULLEN ERA

What was your reaction, and that of your teammates when Mullen said that the Oklahoma game was basically a practice game?

Wells: Come on man, if you’re a coach and you’re coaching, not even just a coach. If you’re a person and you’re doing something, you’re going to put your all into it right? You’re going to try your best no matter what.

I’m going to show somebody, “Man this is what we do.” You’re at the University of Florida talking about a “Practice game?” You’re telling us off the rip that you don’t believe in us.

So, that’s how it was. They didn’t believe in us. But I’m not going to say them. I’m going to say him. There are some raw coaches on that staff, that staff was raw. I think they couldn’t be themselves because of who was running the show. They couldn’t be themselves and that sh*t showed.

Last year Dan Mullen stuck with Emory Jones when most of the fan base wanted Anthony Richardson out there. Were there pro-Jones and pro-Richardson sides to the team?

Wells: I ain’t going to say it was one-sided. If it was, it wasn’t noticeable. There’ll be little discussions you know? Like, I like five and I like 15. I ain’t got nothing to do with it, I ain’t no coach.

Whoever is going to get out there, let’s ball. That’s just how I was. I wasn’t with none of that, “Oh, you’re rawer than him. Man, he better than you.” I ain’t with all that. We’re going to be out here on the same field, we’re going to ball together. That’s just how it is.

“I believe in you,” I always told five that. I don’t care anything about critics, I’ve been criticized my whole life.

Man said to my face that the league not made for me, then he had somebody come in and agree with him. Like bro, come on. I believe in myself.

As players, did you feel like you had to help pick each other up?

Wells: H*ll yeah! Because it was some shady shit going on and there can only be so much counseling. You’re going to have to turn to somebody. Somebody may be feeling the same way you’re feeling. Or the person who’s really starting feel the same way you feel, like “Man, you should be playing more.” This is Florida saying this though. It just goes back to depression.

You guys just felt like you had to help out whoever was playing quarterback.

Wells: Personally, I don’t know how other people felt. They might’ve felt like five couldn’t do it or they, may have felt that 15 couldn’t start all the way.

Personally, I felt like either one of them boys could’ve did the job. It goes back to the relationships, how you’re getting treated. I don’t know for sure how he was getting treated. But it all plays into your facilities and how you’re eating, the funds you got. Are you really living? That all plays into a person’s life and how they perform.

It wasn’t a one-sided thing. It was just whoever got out there, they were going to get the job done. I believed in all them boys for real.

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