Photo by Carrieann Wingo

The Inside Scoop: A behind the scenes look at how Florida flipped four-star Wingo

June 23, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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As we have done with other big recruiting events, Inside the Gators takes you behind the scenes and gives you The Inside Scoop on how Florida flipped four-star linebacker Derek Wingo‍ from Penn State.

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On Saturday Fort Lauderdale (Fla) St. Thomas Aquinas consensus four-star linebacker Derek Wingo‍ flipped his commitment from Penn State to Florida while visiting the Gators. Today his mother, Carrieann Wingo, shares that experience, as well as how his commitment went down, with the Gator Nation.

When Derek committed to Penn State last Christmas there was no doubt that is where he would end up. His whole heart was in it. Then, over time, I guess you can say he fell out of love. Sometimes you can’t really place when that happens, it just happens. It was nothing Penn State did or didn’t do. That is what in fact made the decision so hard. The PSU staff was good to us, so good to us, we consider them family and always will.

However, his heart just wasn’t there anymore.

Florida was very low key and transparent with the recruiting process. Which actually started over a year ago at the first Great Gator Grill Out. We all remember what went down that day (see note below). They impressed Derek on every level throughout the event. To be honest my husband and I have been ‘Noles our entire life so we did not even entertain the possibility that Florida was an option!

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Note:
On a dare, Wingo and a couple of South Florida Express teammates threw up the Miami Hurricanes U and a screen shot of that incident made its way across the Internet. Wingo immediately apologized via social media to the staff and fan-base - saying he meant no disrespect.
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However, the truth is you don’t know you’re home and with family by looking at graphs and papers, you feel it in your heart.
- Carrieann Wingo

I believe in my heart Derek fell in love with Florida that day, but he pushed it to the back of his mind out of respect for us. In fact we refused to even go that day.

At that point we had NEVER been to Gainesville.

As far as when he first started having second thoughts about his pledge to Penn State, it was after we returned home from the Blue and White spring game.

That is when I really began asking him detailed questions about the Penn State program - and he did not know the answers. He would say, ‘we never talked about that.’ I believe he fell in love with the PSU staff - and who wouldn’t - but I don’t feel he was necessarily in love with the program. He hates the cold weather and never wanted to be far from home. But those coaches are great guys and that’s what he wanted to be around.

When we visited Penn State in the spring I knew something was off. I would say ‘Derek, are you good?’ he would just say, ‘yeah.’ .... Then when we got home I could tell his head was spinning.

In my opinion these kids should not even be allowed to consider committing until the spring prior to their senior year.

That’s when we really started researching and digging deeper into the two programs.

Side-by-side I think he quickly reached a point that he knew in his heart PSU was not home. But, the relationship he had with their staff was amazing.

So, we finally agreed to visit Florida on March 17th after a nearby 7v7 tournament. Beforehand, out of respect, we let PSU coaches know we would be there.

THE WINGO FAMILY IN THE SWAMP DURING THE MARCH VISIT

Much to our surprise the experience and staff blew us away. I think that is when, as parents, we really questioned allowing him to make a life long decision by committing at 16. We felt firmly that this is his decision, but had failed him in making sure that he had all the information needed to be able to make the best decision for his future.


DEREK WINGO WITH CHRISTIAN ROBINSON AND BILLY GONZALES IN THE SWAMP

To start, Florida has always been a top school for Derek, it just stayed in the back of his mind. As he became more involved with Florida and building relationships with the staff it became very clear to him that he may have jumped the gun and made his decision too early.

When it came to Florida they offered both majors he was trying to decide between, it was close to home - which is important for him for more reasons than I can get into - and the potential for him to make an immediate impact and be a leader was a priority and the opportunity is there to do so. Because Derek attends a private high school although he has the credits to do so, they do not allow him to graduate early which in most programs puts an incoming athlete behind. With Florida though, Derek already knows their system and he has trained both privately and at the high school level using the same principles and system therefore puts him ahead of the game. These are only a few of the reasons he realized Florida was just a better fit for him.

The actual decision was not made in a day or even a week, it was some time before we went back. The truth is we were given the advice that when you're trying to make a decision between two loves ALWAYS choose the second because if you were TRULY in love with first you never would have went looking for the second.

Florida is the best place for him and gives him the best opportunity to be able to reach his goals both academically and athletically. Because it is so close to home it gives him the opportunity to be able to spend a lot of time over the next year on campus.

DEREK WINGO ARRIVING AT THE FOOTBALL COMPLEX ON SATURDAY

There was absolutely no intention of committing today [Saturday]. In fact we did not even plan to go up there until a day prior. The intention of the visit was to have all of Derek’s and our questions answered so that we could help Derek review the information and make the best decision based upon those answers.

As parents we owed that to him and for that reason we agreed to visit.

The day prior I send coach Robinson a list - it was not a small list, in fact it was pretty extensive. Not to mention there was not just one list. There were two very extensive lists, one with Derek’s questions and concerns, and then there was our list as parents with our questions and concerns. In fact I brought a notebook on the trip and colored graphing tools to make charts, and a ‘pros and cons’ list the whole way home.

However, the truth is you don’t know you’re home and with family by looking at graphs and charts, you feel it in your heart.

Upon arrival, keep in mind they had a huge camp going on with over 300 campers, and somehow the whole staff came together and had created three folders one for each of us with personalized information directly in line with our lists. Covering just about every question asked in detail. What was not covered in that information was addressed by multiple coaches in line with who ever was responsible for that aspect of program.


FLORIDA’S PRESENTATION TO THE WINGO FAMILY

It wasn’t long before we were all looking at each other and there were no words needed. It was clear that Florida was not only a better fit for Derek, but an almost perfect fit to foster his future goals and dreams.

After a meeting with Coach Mullen for an extensive one-on-one covering anything that was left on the list that we originally provided and some personal conversations that simply made it clear that this was home for Derek, he committed to Coach Mullen. Even at that point there was no pressure - we all agreed on every aspect of where to go from this point and that the most important thing was that it was handled in the right way, respectfully and with class.

DEREK WINGO AND DAN MULLEN IN THE OFFICE ON SATURDAY

The hardest part came when it was all said and done and the phone call had to be made.

When you have to call someone that you consider family, that has been nothing but good to you and tell them something you know that is going to disappoint them and change your relationship forever, it hurts, there are real feelings and real pain.

Although you hope there are no hard feelings, everyone understands that it’s not personal, you have to make the best decision for you and your future, and pray that the relationships you built are not ruined.

We all know that is not true and it is hard to say good-bye even when you know it’s the right decision.

Listening to him make that phone call was the hardest thing he has ever done. But he is confident in his choice and knows where he belongs. He has built amazing relationships with the Florida staff and they are like family in more ways than one. He is good friends with a couple players that are currently on the team and has many friends that attend school there. So when you are checking off that checklist in what you are looking for EVERY box is checked with a program like Florida.

In fact while on campus yesterday we were driving in the golf cart and a car of girls pulled up screaming, ‘Hey Derek, Go Gators! Go Derek! So he is home already knowing he already has friends who are students, players and has built a solid meaningful relationship with the entire staff.

In regards to Florida, I can not say enough about the way the staff handled the entire process. At no time was there ever any pressure. In fact they made it known that they wanted Derek to play for Florida, why and how he would make an impact and that they would honor his scholarship offer at any point in the process. It was more important to the entire staff that we took our time and made the right decision for Derek and our family. They were very transparent about the entire program allowing us to see the whole picture and everything that was available.


DEREK WINGO AND FUTURE POSITION COACH CHRISTIAN ROBINSON

They answered my five million questions and never sugar coated or answered with anything other than the truth, even if it wasn’t what we wanted to hear.

The entire staff was extremely respectful to the fact that Derek was committed and never forced anything on us or gave us any information that we did not ask for. They never compared the schools or even brought Penn State up.

That was very impressive too me. I have spoken to so many schools and they always focus on what they could offer that another school couldn’t or why they were better. Coach Mullen and his staff never even brought up PSU, they only spoke about Florida and what they offered as a whole. In the beginning I was just waiting for “you should choose us over PSU because.....” but it never came, it was only pure transparency about every aspect and that we should make the best decision for Derek and our family. The Florida staff handled the process with nothing but respect for everyone involved and with pure class!

I would add that the entire staff was ‘real’ we did not feel they at any point tried to be anything they weren’t. They are very involved and family oriented and they all worked as a team. As parents we feel very confident that they will encourage, love and support Derek when needed, but will also hold him truly accountable and give him a dose of tough love when needed. Again they were very transparent with their mission, philosophies and styles even if it was not all rainbows and unicorns.

Additionally the stories and relationships that the coaches have with each other are priceless.

Coach [Todd] Grantham and Coach [Christian] Robinson’s story alone is a testimony to the importance of relationships and family. 

We are confident that Florida is the best place for Derek and many factors had an impact on the final decision including having Derek close to home is priceless. There are not even words to describe how happy we are. As a family we have sacrificed so much to ensure Derek had every opportunity available and has worked hard to get to where he is and there are many people to thank for their help along the way. The fact that Derek will continue his academic and athletic career in an area that all those people will be able to actively be involved and be a part of these victories and attend games is just priceless.

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All photos courtesy of the Wingo family

The Inside Scoop: A behind the scenes look at how Florida flipped four-star Wingo

RegGator
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I love it.

Could you please make the other inside scoop stories free for just one day so a long time Gator on a fixed income can read them.

Please, please, please and please.
G8rJD
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This is why I don't understand what parents don't see in this staff...I guess most need their ass kissed as much as their kids and feel the need to be "sold" by a snake oil salesman or someone that can be a used car salesman...the parents of Wingo seem as level headed and substantive as their son and that's impressive nowadays
Kkilburns
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There are a lot of haters regarding CDM recruiting style but I can't think of a better way to go about it than the way Mama Wingo described it. If you can't sell the merits of your program alone you're doomed to fail. Selling against someone's weaknesses seldom works. Slow and steady, no pressure.
gator rising
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All of the looks behind the scenes are worth the price of the subscription.

It is a great job all the way around.

I love our Gator moms. High quality people. We need to get Ms. Wingo and Ms. White together and have them give seminars to recruits parents.
ausbran
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Awesome sorry, excited to have the Wingo fam as gators!!
Eric-UF
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The insights into this family and how they went though the recruiting process and the way the staff works was awesome...this is what makes ITG so special.

Thanks
Fun & Gun
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I was against how we took the DB yesterday but getting Wingo made me feel better about it and reading this makes me feel a little better about Mullen as a recruiter.

Staff, this is a great job on telling us how it went down. These insider stories and recruiting updates are the best things on this site.
UFgator52-20
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This is a good read. Thank you staff and Mrs. Wingo.

Can we count on these Seminole fans to wear orange and blue in November when we play FSU?
upstateg8tor
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I can understand the frustration at times, with recruiting... but how many times did she drive home the point that Mullen & staff were genuine, transparent, honest and above board with every aspect of the program.
GatorNupe
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Another Great ITG. Thanks to Mrs Wingo for the access and honesty. Recruiting this way will yield better results in the long run. Athletes sold on our program and The #GatorStandard will be bought in day 1 coming in. Thanks again for all of the ITG stories alone which makes the subscription worth it.
peanut46
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Welcome aboard young man! It is great to have such an outstanding student athlete commit to our beloved GATORS! Congratulations to you and your wonderful family!
MKA
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Agree, really love this type article. Mrs. Wingo and Mrs. White did a great job on their stories, which not only reflected very well on the staff but on themselves as well. Go Gators!
g8orbill
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great story

says a lot about our process and our coaches
GatorDMD
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Great read.

This is why we have to believe in Mullen. When stuff like this gets around to recruits and their families we will get back to signing great classes.

Thank you Kassidy, Mark and momma Wingo.
Jmeg8r
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I'm new here and this is exactly what I was looking for in subscribing. Thanks for the great inside look at recruiting!
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
Jmeg8r said:

I'm new here and this is exactly what I was looking for in subscribing. Thanks for the great inside look at recruiting!

First of all, thank you for supporting the site by subscribing. I do appreciate you!

Then, thank you for the kind words.

I think we are going to be topping this with this year's Anonymous Player Parting Thoughts, which should start running in the next 10 days or so.
1bigg8rindade
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Good deal. You can tell he is getting good advice and just enough parental involvement to allow him to make his own decisions but they make sure he makes informed ones.

I love the story and how everything was handled by our staff.
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