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Florida Football Recruiting

Shannon Snell, the man behind the Relationship Ribs

May 16, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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This weekend, Florida will be hosting prospects from around the country for their second annual Great Gator Grill Out. It's a unique recruiting weekend that provides coaches, current players, prospects and their parents the opportunity to interact and connect in a relaxed game day free environment. 

Inside the Gators spoke with former Gators great Shannon Snell for a deeper understanding of how this event came about and his work in the Gainesville community.  

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Snell finds his calling 

Shannon Snell is a former All-American left guard for the Florida Gators who was best known for his physical play upfront. After a brief stint in the NFL, which saw him sign with three different NFL teams (Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars), he decided to move back home to the Tampa area to configure a game plan for his post-football career.  

With his football career in the past, 6-foot-2, 311-pound Snell turned to another passion of his. 

"I told my mom when I was younger, I wanted to be a cook. I didn't know why, but I always enjoyed baking and cooking. I didn't know what it meant in becoming a cook. It's kind of like someone wanting to go to the moon, but not wanting to be an astronaut," Snell explained.  

Snell's new career eventually came calling. 

In 2008, Snell received a job opportunity at Sonny's BBQ in Gainesville.   

"I didn't know what I exactly wanted to do or what I was getting into, but over time it's evolved into a lot of great opportunities," Snell said. 

One great opportunity awaits Snell on Saturday.   

The second annual Great Gator Grill Out is a one-of-a-kind recruiting approach Snell credits Florida head coach Dan Mullen with helping him develop. 

"We kind of coined the idea off each other," Snell said. "This event is a little bit different; it was a little more laid back and fun last year. It was one of those things that absolutely no one knew what it was about. We're expecting another great crowd this weekend."   

Held in Florida's $17 million indoor practice facility, the Grill Out is as much about having fun and building a bond as it is the nuts and bolts of recruiting. 

Fortnite, the popular and appealing game, station was set up in one section, while EA Sports Madden was located on another projector for recruits and visitors to enjoy.  

Snell acknowledges he knows how a young teenager thinks and wishes events like the Grill Out happened during his recruiting process in the late 1990s. 

Whether or not they eventually sign with Florida, Snell hopes this is an experience the kids will remember. 

Catered by Sonny's BBQ, and cooked by Snell himself, the food itself helps to create an unforgettable memory. 

"I think the jalapeño sausage links were the favorite in the crowd. I know the ribs were a big hit, but the sausage links stuffed with jalapeños and cheddar seemed to be the best," Snell said.  

Snell plans on bringing 100 pounds of brisket and 125 pounds of his famous ribs, which takes about five hours to produce the right taste and texture.

He's also creating special smoked meatballs, around 450 of them. In addition, 150 pounds of mac-and-cheese, baked beans and other ‘fixings’ will be available.  

If that doesn't excite you, I don't know what will.  

Social media hyped up the event last year, expecting numerous commitments to flow shortly at the conclusion, but according to Snell, that's not really the intended purpose. 

"Everyone was expecting kids to commit and the coaches to pursue targets, but it was more about building relationships with the kids and parents," he explained. "The coaching staff was still new at that time of year and Mullen's main purpose was to build relationships during this event." 

 A hashtag quickly went viral during this event with Corry "Silkk" Knowles of the Big3RollUp coining the #RelationshipRibs tweets, according to Snell. 

"'That's one hell of a phrase' I said, and I stole it from him," Snell said. "And everyone after that started using it. That was really his thing, but we made it bigger as the recruiting process went on." 

The #RelationshipRibs will be in full effect come this Saturday as premiere prospects will roll into town. After all the negative news circulating around Gator Nation over the past few weeks, this hopefully will help Mullen and his staff turn things around on the recruiting trail. 

Snell envisions it being only a matter of time. 

"He's what the Gators needed," Snell said of Mullen. "He's got a great support staff. And something I believe that has been missing for a long time is he's a head coach that actually likes being the head coach of the Gators. I can't say that about every coach before him." 

It's apparent that Mullen loves being back in Gainesville, citing that this is his dream job and that he wouldn't want to be anywhere else countless times. He provides energy with a grinning smile from ear-to-ear each time he talks about being the Florida's head coach. 

 The joyful emotion reminds Snell of his former coach, Steve Spurrier

"That's how Steve Spurrier was. He liked being the head coach of the Florida Gators," Snell said. 

Snell thinks the success of Florida is due to more than just Mullen himself. 

"The cool thing about his support staff is they're kind of a machine. You look at [Nick] Saban and Alabama, I think Mullen is implementing the same kind of thing. He's building this program back to a powerhouse from this dumpster fire it was just a few years back. He took a team that really wasn't his and turned them around to a 10-win team."  

"So, let's see in a few years when he has full turnover and has all of his guys in place and can recruit the guys he wants. I think he wins a national title in the next five years." 

Snell likes the open-arms experience for former Gators under Mullen. 

Safe to say, under Will Muschamp and Jim McElwain they didn't have the same relationships with former players. 

"No, and that's the funny thing. I'll say yes and no. They've been good about welcoming players back, but I'd say if players came back around there wouldn't be much contact," Snell explained. "You can take a look now and you see guys who are visiting that haven't been here since they originally left and that's really important because you can't talk intelligently about the past if you don't have those former guys coming back around." 

Snell's work in the Gainesville community 

Snell is known for more than just his fierce blocking on the offensive line and his famous relationship ribs. He is also very active in the Gainesville community. 

Right before he spoke with Inside the Gators, Snell had just left a Leadercast Gainesville event in town.  

"We believe in building leaders throughout our community," Snell said. "That's what Sonny's BBQ is all about and we support groups in our community. We just did March of Dimes a few weeks back. It's National BBQ Month so we try to get involved as much as we can, whether it be in the Ocala or Gainesville areas." 

"We reach a wide variety of organizations like the Marion County Fire Department or the Gainesville Police Department. Just like Chic-Fil-A  in  Gainesville, we're kind of in the same umbrella in terms of making sure our first responders and the community workers are always taken care of," Snell said. 

Snell is a person many in the community look up to and admire.  

Building leaders and serving others spreads positivity in the area and allows future generations to reflect on their time being helped and provide that same support as they grow in their communities.  

But his time giving back to the community doesn't end there.  

Former Gators defensive back Doc Pollard is the head coach at Santa Fe High School in Alachua and Snell had the privilege of being their offensive line coach in 2018. Santa Fe is my alma mater and I know how much the school was in need of good coaching.  

"Last season was my first year as coach. Doc is the head coach over there. I won't be coaching due to scheduling issues; it requires a time crunch. I was able to do it last year, we did really well and went to the state playoffs. Doc's doing a great job over there and Santa Fe only had one win the year before so that was a great accomplishment. He's got some good guys in his program and I think he'll advance even further in the playoffs this year," Snell said. 

Shannon Snell, the man behind the Relationship Ribs

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