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Florida Football Recruiting

Dexter's improbable path to high school football stardom

August 11, 2019

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LAKE WALES, Fla. | Even without wearing a jersey number by which to help identify him, upon arriving for Wednesday afternoon's practice at Lake Wales High School, it wasn't difficult to pick out Gervon Dexter‍.

At 6-foot-7, 290-pounds he towered over every other defender in the huddle, and every other player on the field for that matter.

That's nothing new.

According to Dexter he has always been the biggest player on the field.

When he first started playing in elementary school the coaches put him in at running back. The thought process at that level is that either the biggest (hardest to tackle) or the fastest (hardest to catch) gets the ball.

When you are the biggest as well as one of the fastest, that makes the choice as to who you feed the ball to that much easier.

“I was never small,” replied Dexter when asked about when he first hit his growth spurt. “I was the biggest and fastest when I started playing football in, I think, it was kindergarten or first grade and I played until, I think, right before sixth grade.”

He discontinued his football career back then not due to a lack of success on the field, but rather his growing interest, due partly to his size, in another sport.

“I was all about basketball,' said Dexter. “That was all I did. I put in all this work and I was playing AAU ball and starting to get ranked and I thought that was going to be how I went to college.”

At that point, at right around 6-foot-4 and still growing, Dexter assumed his future lie on the hardwood rather than the gridiron. After-all he had already received basketball offers from the likes of Virginia and Wichita State.

However, as is normally the case in life, the unexpected happens and fate stepped in to throw a wrench into the works.

At the completion of the 2017 football season Highlanders head football coach Tavaris Johnson had an opportunity to see more of Dexter competing for his high school basketball team.

While others around him were watching and cheering on as Dexter drove the lane for a basket or skied for a rebound, Johnson was envisioning how that skill-set could transition to the football field.

“I saw the way he ran the floor, the explosion he had around the basket and the way he would body other players out of the way,” explained Johnson. “I saw a football player out there. I approached him and told him straight up, 'Come out to some off-season workouts and then give me one practice. Come out to one practice and if you don't want to play after that, I promise I won't bother you about it again.'”


To Dexter though it wasn't just a matter of attending one practice.

He was well on his way down the path to playing collegiate basketball. How would participating in football change that? Would it impact his UAA travel schedule or would he be at greater risk for injury and thus end up left out in the cold on both fronts?

“He came out to the practice last spring and the one thing he was really worried about was being able to go to college and have it paid for,” said Johnson. “The first thing he asked me was, now this was at his very first high school football practice, do I think he would get an offer?

“That is his mindset. He wants to do better than just being here. He wants to use his athletic gifts to go on and get an education and make something more out of himself.”

Coach Johnson said that he was in a bind. He didn't want to discourage Dexter, but he also wanted to be realistic with him.

“I told him, you haven't played a game yet, you don't have any tape for them to watch and you haven't camped or anything like that. It's going to take some time for the offers to come in, you can't expect it to happen right away.”

Once again, fate stepped in and played its part.

It just so happens that even though they weren't in pads and it was basically a practice filled mostly of warm-ups and walk-thru's a Florida Atlantic coach was on hand that day – and liked what he saw of the big, new kid on the block.

“Not that long after that first practice Florida Atlantic offered him. I almost didn't want to tell him because I didn't want to lose credibility with him,” said Johnson with a smile. “But it took off from there. Coaches would come by, see him out there with his size and explosion and the next thing you know they offered.”

Had those early offers not been extended, who knows how this plays out.

Does Dexter get discouraged and return to strictly playing basketball?

It doesn't matter now because by the end of that first spring he had already garnered several offers as well as intense interest from the likes of Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee.

By the time he completed his first season of high school football Dexter had already received 40-plus offers when they stopped keeping count.

In the end though, he only needed the one.

After being offered by Florida in late October, in early November he pulled the trigger and committed to play for the Gators.

Only, it wasn't in the sport in which he first imagined.

“When I was playing UAA basketball I wanted to get Florida's attention to get an offer and go there to play basketball,” said Dexter.

Now, that the dream is coming true, but in a different sport, no one is happier for him than Coach Johnson.

“He deserves everything he has coming to him,” gushed Johnson. “You couldn't ask for a better student, a more respectful person, a harder working player. He is the total package.”

Though he has only played one year of high school football he is already on the verge of being ranked as a five-star on the 247 Sports Composite. This past spring and summer he attended several camps where he not only competed against, but in many cases dominated prospects who have been playing the game for years.

“I hope the Florida fans appreciate what they're getting in Gervon,” said Johnson. “He isn't going to stop until he makes it to the top. This is only the beginning for him, he’s just scratching the surface of what he is capable of becoming.”

Roughly 15 months after wondering whether or not a single college coach would extend an offer, Dexter has received so much attention, so many offers, is bombarded so much by those same coaches that he has decided to put an end to his recruiting process.

“I told the [Florida] coaches at Friday Night Lights that recruiting was over for me,” explained Dexter. “I see how it is with Clemson commits, that they don't take other visits or flirt with other schools and I said that's how we need to do it at Florida. I won't visit any other schools, or go to any other games or take any of my official visits except to Florida.

“It's over, I'm a Gator 100%.”




Dexter's improbable path to high school football stardom

9,333 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 2 yr ago by Lilgator
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No homo but I love everything about him. I can't wait to see him in the orange and blue throwing OL around.

They are comparing him to Dunlap on twitter. Do you think he Is he that good?
Fun & Gun
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Good story!

Think about this he has only played football for a year and is so good already. When he gets a couple of more years under his belt and gets to work with Turner and Grantham he is going to be a beast.

Thank you for these kind of stories.
Mark Wheeler
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1968Gator said:

No homo but I love everything about him. I can't wait to see him in the orange and blue throwing OL around.

They are comparing him to Dunlap on twitter. Do you think he Is he that good?

He isn't as outright athletic as Dunlap. Remember, he was returning kicks as a senior. Dexter has a little more size at this point.

I've been comparing him to Calais Campbell.
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He showed how mature and dedicated he is by cutting off recruiting. We need him to keep helping us recruit Smith. Those two would be the start of a great defensive line.
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