Photo by Carrieann Wingo

The Inside Scoop: A behind the scenes look at Derek Wingo's Florida official visit

February 9, 2020

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Over the years we have talked to an endless number of prospects before and after their official visit to Florida for basically the same update over and over again. What did the coaches have to say to you? What was the highlight? What would you rate the visit on a scale of 1-to-10?

If you have ever actually wondered what goes on during an official visit, for the second cycle in a row an Inside the Gators exclusive takes you behind the scenes of what happens Friday through Sunday on campus during an official visit weekend at the University of Florida.

In the Class of 2019 Rosemary White, the mother of Florida offensive line commit Ethan White, was kind enough to share her experience with us through a detailed update combined with a photo blog. 

Related: The Inside Scoop: An in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at a Florida official visit

Here in the Class of 2020, Carrieane Wingo, the mother of Florida linebacker commit Derek Wingo‍ gives us an incredibly detailed look at what took place during his official visit back in early December.

When I was initially asked to share what our family’s ‘official visit’ to the University of Florida entailed, I seemingly thought it would be a very simple thing to do. However, as I began to try to put this experience into words, I somehow found myself speechless.

For most of the world that knows me that does not happen very often, if ever.

Trying to reflect in my mind and find the words to share with the world the things we experienced,  the places we visited, the conversations we had,  the people we met, the feelings we had and every little moment that made this experience everything it was, but yet nothing even close to what we expected.

Because St. Thomas Aquinas' football season schedule changed, leaving the team without a bye week, it became difficult to find a time where we were able to get the official visit to Florida in prior to early signing day.

With the Raiders heading to the state championship game, it left only the weekend of December 6, as the one shot to officially visit before early signing day.

Moving forward we knew the only disappointment would be that my daughter (Derek’s best friend) would not be able to be a part of the event which has always been part of the plan. It was very important to Derek that she be able to experience this. However, because of the short notice, it just wasn’t going to happen.

It is at this is the moment the ‘magic’ began!

Derek vocalized to the Florida staff who he wanted to attend his official visit since he flipped to the Gators over the summer and talk of the official visit came into play. When we begin to schedule the itinerary and events for the weekend of the official visit Florida wasted NO time in making sure ALL the details were covered.

In speaking with Director of Recruiting Operations Lee Begley, she informed us that they were able to arrange my daughter Sarah and daughter-in-law Jorden to accompany Derek on his official visit. I should also mention that they live in Texas and we had not seen them in quite some time. On top of that Saturday, December 7th was my husband’s birthday, making the weekend that much more special.

It couldn’t get any better... or could it?


The day was finally here. We had about a five hour drive to Gainesville ahead of us. We arrived at the hotel and were greeted by a swarm of support staff members who informed us that Sarah and Jorden’s plane had just landed in Gainesville and the driver was picking them up and they would be arriving in about 30 minutes. They said we had time to go to our rooms and settle In before they arrived and they would notify us upon they got there. They gave us our room keys and we headed towards our rooms.... Derek was on a separate floor with the other prospects visiting, so we parted ways in the elevator.

The Room: There are NO WORDS to describe the room. The personal touches were CRAZY! I was blown away! The room was decorated and filled with each of our individual favorite snacks and drinks, all of the literature was personalized. I was seriously blown away. Without a second thought I went to try to catch Derek’s reaction to his room, thinking he had all the same stuff we did.... WRONG! His room was personalized for him and him only with his favorite snacks his favorite drinks, personalized literature including hand written notes from staff filled with an array of welcome cards from people we did not even know.

Not too long after we were notified that my daughter and daughter-in-law had arrived and we all rushed to the lobby for a long overdue reunion. The staff gave them their room key and as excited as I was about all the goodies in our room, I didn’t want to brag simply because I did not even think that their room would be personalized as well! Surprise! Really at this point I shouldn’t have even doubted it. Again, their room was personalized just for them. I then remembered a couple weeks back Lee and I having a conversation in which she nonchalantly snuck in questions so that she would know exactly how to personalize the rooms. All I could think was WOW! 

Meet & Greet: Up next was the meet and greet, all the recruits, families, support staff,  coaches & food! I think there were maybe 10 or more officials that weekend but honestly I have no clue because there was not a moment throughout the entire weekend that we did not feel that we were the only ones there. The meet and greet gave us an opportunity to meet some of the other families and recruits that we did not know and basically just catch up with staff and coaches in a very informal setting with fun, great stories, great conversation, great people and amazing appetizers!

The Locker Room:  After the  meet and greet we headed down to the new locker room where we shared crazy stories, saw crazier socks, took photos, met with the ‘big brothers’ and I shared a kis with my boyfriend, but shhh... don’t tell my husband.

 While the boys were all deciding on their uniforms for pictures we got a chance to simply relax and hang out. We were all able to actively participate in everything. Not only my husband and I but Sarah & Jorden were also involved in everything we did. The Florida staff really went above and beyond to ensure we felt like we were the only ones in the room! 

We exchanged crazy stories, learned that Coach Dan Mullen is always wearing some form of crazy socks (I took a picture, but trust me, you don’t want to see them), the visitors took individual and group photos along with photos with staff and with their families. Nothing was rushed,  every question was answered, we were able to meet and spend time with current players that would be the acting ‘big-brothers’ for the evening.

Derek’s big-brother was Trevon Grimes, which was amazing since they already knew each other and come from the same high school.

I’ll be honest, as a parent the thought of the big brother outings was initially quite nerve-racking. These were current college players that are mostly “older and wiser” on ALL  levels. Therefore the thought of sending our then 17-year-old son out for the evening was pretty scary. During the time in the locker room Trevon made it a point to sit with us and spend time answering our endless parental questions, and never seemed the least bit bothered.

He took the time to make sure we felt comfortable with him spending time with Derek and even sat with a smile on his face as this mama bear threatened to “hunt him down” if any shenanigans were to occur while they were out!

This left us feeling much more comfortable about the situation. Trevon is such an amazing guy and I am so excited that Derek will have him as a role model in the future.

On another note I got the opportunity to give my boyfriend Timmy Tebow a little smooch. The highlight though was Coach Mullen sent Timmy a text of the picture, to which Tebow responded back with a kissy face emoji!

Shula’s Steakhouse & 402: As the boys departed with their ‘big-brothers’ for the evening we were off to Shula’s Steakhouse for an amazing dinner!  We had the opportunity to sit with and have dinner with Coach Mullen, Mamma Mullen, Coach Christian Robinson and his girlfriend Kaylee! At first I was really nervous I mean really who gets this opportunity! It was minutes before we felt like we had done this every Friday night for all of our lives. It was REAL! No one put on an act, there we no sugar coating conversations or holding back. It was a typical ‘family’ dinner! At one point Coach Mullen said to my husband I hope your gonna just pick up that bone (steak) and chew the meat off. Dinner, dessert and then 402!

402 was a open suite at the host hotel filled with food, games, and football! We had the opportunity to mingle watch football, play games and spend time with other families and staff!




Breakfast and Academic Presentations: Did I forgot to mention that each visiting prospect had their own driver literally at their beck and call. All driving blacked out SUV’s. It was like we were in the presidential fleet. 

Our car was waiting for us to take us to breakfast where we met up with everyone for an amazing buffet. After breakfast the focus was academics. We toured academic buildings, classrooms,  the athletic academic building designed for studying, tutoring and academic support. It comes complete with full technology and equipment based on majors and areas of studies. To say I was IMPRESSED is an understatement! The guidance, support and technology Florida athletes receive is simply NEXT LEVEL!

EVERY question we had was answered in-depth - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Nothing was sugarcoated. They laid out the real life of an athlete and what to expect!

Training & Nutrition: We were able to attend a a full in-depth session of the player’s nutrition and meal planning. We Learned how this aspect is individualized to cater to each players needs.

Again, this is NEXT LEVEL!

We also met and toured with strength training staff and again were educated on what goes into training. I never even comprehended the level of preparation that is invested to each individual athlete’s progression and needs.

Besides the educational aspect the dedication that is devoted to each player and the team as a whole is unmeasurable! You CAN NOT fake this stuff!

Lunch at the Mullen Residence! Seriously? What?

Once again I was a bit uneasy... WAIT... FALSE ALARM!

Walking into the Mullen residence was more comfortable than any family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner I have ever had! Lunch was nothing short of out of this world. Players and recruits were playing basketball on the Gator themed basketball court as if it were their own backyard. Families were gathered around the pool and watching the football games of course, and all throughout their home nNo room was closed off and when you were greeted and told to make yourself at home it was genuine and meant make yourself at home!

Again this was all VERY real!

This was NOT a show or an event, this was a ‘family gathering’ at at no point did anyone feel as if it was anything else than that. We had the chance to play golf with coach Mullen, coach Robinson and Kaylee in their golf room, and the only words I have for that is pure FUN! The best part is we had the opportunity to take a family photo around the Christmas tree.... and I mean a true family photo, ya know the Christmas card kind. You guys... check out our FAMILY photo Christmas card!!! There was no rush for anything, no the ‘party is over’ 

In fact coach Mullen, Coach Robinson, Kaylee, Derek, Sarah and Jorden were having so much fun in the golf room we did not even realize no one was left there EXCEPT for us and our driver!

We called it a day as we had a couple hours to relax before iye next scheduled activity. We said our goodbyes and started to head back to our hotel. We were about 15 minutes out when I realized I left my purse at the Mullen’s home. I felt terrible. Derek called Coach to let him know. He [Mullen] offered to drive it to me or have it brought to me, whatever I needed without hesitation.  Our driver immediately turned the vehicle around and headed back to Coach Mullen’s home to retrieve my purse.

Derek ran up to the door trying to be quick and not interrupt their private time and after ringing the doorbell quite a few times - as he glanced back to us and shrugged his shoulders - Coach Mullen opened the door and we could hear him tell Derek, “Man, why are you knocking and ringing the bell? My home is your home. You open the door and come in.“

Back on Campus: Once again back in route to the hotel we realized that we only had a short free time before the next scheduled activities and hadn’t yet had a chance to stop anywhere to be able to buy Sarah and Jorden the Gator apparel they desperately wanted.

Additionally we realized that the one thing we didn’t get to do over the summer during our undisclosed visits was view the dorms, which was something that Derek really wanted to see. Our driver overheard us talking and without hesitation took us to a local Gator apparel shop to be able to get the girls a shirt.

While doing so he arranged a visit with a current player to be able to visit a dorm.

Again all of this done without hesitation and he was happy to do so. Who does that? Knowing he had a couple hours off to relax or spend with his personal family? That is just my point, people today don’t do that, but the University of Florida does more than that because that’s exactly what you are - family.

The Keys Athlete Dorms: They are just that dorms, consisting of a small common area with very basic furniture, a small dining area and small kitchen. There are two full bathrooms per dorm. The rooms are just what you would expect of a dorm they are basic and definitely need updating. However Florida agrees and the school is currently in the process of constructing new athletic dorm buildings. At UF it is not required that first year freshmen actually live on campus, however is strongly recommended and that is typically what happens until incoming freshmen kind of get the hang of college life and schedules. As a parent we feel is a great idea!

It was now mid to late afternoon and not much of our unscheduled time was left we definitely chose to go back to the hotel and rest a little and try to begin to process everything we have taken in so far.

Journalism and Production Facilities Activities and Tours: Going in, I could never Imagine what we were about to embark on. We began to walk through the building of the different offices we got to actually view and learn about all of the technology and work that actually goes into producing an airing a game or event along with all of the other amazing productions that currently come out of or have come out of those offices in the past was simply mesmerizing.

I will never view a football game on TV the same again. Prior to this visit I simply turned on the TV and expected all the plays, replays, commentary, stadium views, etc... to just be there. Now when I watch a game I actually have a conceptual idea of the hard work, dedication, teamwork and technology that goes into making it all look so simple for you and I at home.

After an amazing learning experience of what takes place behind the scenes everyone went to the first floor to the actual studio where all of the interviews actually take place. What started as the idea to maybe have a couple visiting prospects volunteer to actually sit on set and have one recruit do an on the spot Q&A interview with another recruit, turned into an opportunity to see how these athletes actually interact with one another, the relationships between each of them and the respect that these young men actually had for each other.

As all of the families and parents got to sit in the audience and observe an amazing yet absolutely hilarious experience. I’m not sure who enjoyed this experience most the recruits who got to put their peers on the spot, call them out (respectfully), bust their chops on who’s team or which athlete who has better and also to have an opportunity to tell a fellow athlete how much they admired looked up to and respected them, or maybe we as parents enjoyed it more because it was absolutely hilarious and simply good clean fun, but it’s quite possible the staff enjoyed it just as much if not more simply because with this group I’m not sure they realized what they were getting into when the whole thing initially started.

Dinner, A Surprise Party, Big Brother and Visitor Outings & 402:

Tonight’s dinner was a joint dinner with families,  recruits, big brothers, additional current players, support staff and coaching staff. Once again dinner did not disappoint. Upon arrival our tables were set with name place settings and this evening we once again had the pleasure of a private table that consisted of myself, my husband, Sarah, Jorden, Coach Robinson and Kaylee.

Additionally, once again the attention to detail and personalization was top notch. My husband’s chair had UF happy birthday balloons tied to it which made the evening that much more special.

Players and visiting prospects had plates filled with seafood, steaks, crab legs and more! I must say I have never seen young men eat so much so quickly. Of course they were not too much at all interested in hanging out with parents or staff but more interested in big brother evening events! By the way yes this mama bear once again threaten to hunt Derek’s big brother Trevon down should there be any shenanigans during the evening, although this time was much more relaxed:)

After dinner Lee and Mama Mullen once again pulled  magic out of their hats. Lee nonchalantly passed by me and whispered you might want to get your camera ready for this. Having no idea what to expect especially because all of the players and recruits had already left for the evening. All I could think is how could there possibly be anything else? Then from the back I see flaring candles with a personalized happy birthday cake for my husband and the UF staff and family’s gathered To sing and celebrate his special day!

You guys! Who does that? Family does that, just another example of how amazing our new family is.

Back in the 402: As the recruits and big brothers went out on their evening excursions so did we another night in 402 the UF family entertainment Suite! However tonight was quite different in 402 everyone must have been completely exhausted we (myself, my husband, Sarah and Jorden) had the honor privilege and pleasure of having the whole sweet to ourselves with Coach Robinson and Kaylee. For hours we shared life, family and childhood stories learning that all of us had so much more in common than we ever imagined! We told jokes, played games and laughed so hard we cried! I clearly remember heading back to our room telling my husband with absolutely no exaggeration  That without a shadow of a doubt I don’t care what happens in the next 3 to 4 years during this experience I need these people in my life forever!

As Sunday morning approached realizing they were only a couple things left to do before the weekend it was over.




Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings: Sunday would consist of an informal breakfast followed by eligibility meetings, compliance meetings, scholarship and financial meetings, enrollment meetings, coaches meetings and bitter sweet goodbyes.

Our meetings begin promptly after breakfast. These were not group meetings but individualized meetings specific for Derek and our family. We were all Involved. We were all able to ask questions and receive all the information that was needed. We learned step-by-step what happens from this point from the legalities of signing contracts on signing day right down to what Derek would need to bring with him for his dorm.

The specifics of financial and scholarship information were explained in-depth so there were no surprises anywhere along the way. Although there were a couple points throughout these meetings I seriously thought my entire family was going to blackball me if this mama bear asked one more question, “my family” were the ONLY ones who felt that way. EVERY member of the UF staff made me feel that each and everyone of my questions were valid and deserved a full in-depth and detailed answer.

We then met individually with Coach Robinson as a family. It included  everything that we could imagine that Derek would actually be going through on a daily basis from trainings to practices meetings, daily life as a UF football player, what was expected of him, also what would not be tolerated, and their expectations of Derek overall.

Derek then had the opportunity to spend time with Coach Robinson on his own reviewing all of those items on a more in-depth player to coach and coach to player level.

In closing our family met with Coach Mullen one last time. This was by no means a brief meeting. It encapsulated a review of everything - and I mean EVERYTHING.  He made sure no topic was uncovered and there were no questions or uncertainties!

Bittersweet Goodbyes: By mid-Sunday it was time to say good bye, not only to our UF family but also to our daughter and daughter in law. There are no words to describe how blessed and grateful we are to coach Mullen and his entire staff for making it possible for Sarah and Jorden to share this experience and be a part to share this experience and be a part of this journey.

Throughout this process I have learned more than I could ever put into words in every aspect on every level. We have interacted with some of the best programs and staffs in the nation and experienced situations that make my heart melt, and some of these programs have left me as a parent brokenhearted. Throughout the process and research we have encountered programs that are amazing, do things the right way, and have various different components Of the “whole package. Some of the programs that we initially believed to be the very best in the nation could not have missed the mark any more than they did with solid evidence of what I would call secrets within the walls of a program with scandalous tactics, lies, deceitfulness, high risk empty promises and rewards for those who fall into the mind games with in their program.

What you will find surprising is that I feel truly grateful and blessed to have encountered each and everyone of those programs and coaching staffs throughout our journey. It is because of each and every one of those programs it was very easy to decipher not only for us as parents, but for Derek what type of program and environment we wanted to call home. Had we not encountered the programs that  were so close but fell short of the whole package or simply were just missing one or two things we were looking for we might have never realized that something was missing at all. By encountering those programs that everyone deems to be better than the rest, but participated in countless unethical antics it quickly became very clear what we did not want within a program. So you see each and every program The good the bad and the ugly brought us one step closer to truly knowing exactly what we did and did not want within a program. What type of staff and environment Derek did and did not want to spend the next 3 to 4 years with and make his family and home.

As a family we were confident from the very moment of “the flip” that the University of Florida and Coach Dan Mullen’s entire support and coaching staff was the only program from start to this very moment on every level exemplified the complete package. From academics to athletics and everything in between the university of Florida, from academics to athletics and everything in between the University of Florida, academic staff, Athletic support staff in coaching staff were “ALL IN” with the knowledge and implementation of the university’s academic and athletic Missions, visions, and philosophies!  Not only were they all in ALL IN each Lead by example in every aspect A long  the way including current students and alumni. Do you have any idea how difficult that task is to accomplish. This is a true testament to the High quality standards that every staff member, student, and student athlete is held accountable for.

Reflecting on this visit we could not be more proud and confident that Derek has without a doubt made the right choice in where he will continue his academic and athletic journey for his future. We knew what our expectations were but had no idea how above and beyond that... Simply NO WORDS OR PHOTOS THAT COULD POSSIBLY DO THIS VISIT ANY JUSTICE!

From the bottom of our hearts we are truly grateful,  honored and blessed that the Gator Nation has allowed our family to become a part of yours for life.

With our sincerest gratitude,

The Wingo’s


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from: Fanatics

The Inside Scoop: A behind the scenes look at Derek Wingo's Florida official visit

6,484 Views | 10 Replies | Last: 4 mo ago by UFgator52-20
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Very nice write up about what goes on behind the scenes
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Amazing story. I'd like to know what schools she is talking about at the bottom?
Go Gators TJ
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She could have made this story into a book.

Tell her thank you for all the details. I loved how Mullen asked Derek why he was knocking. He could have just come right in.
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So many things to point out. Awesome stuff!
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outofsight said:

Amazing story. I'd like to know what schools she is talking about at the bottom?
It has to be Miami. That's the only other team that recruited him after he flipped over to us.

They are the type to do that. That's part of how they got Williams from us.
Dan the Man
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It's great that we have Momma Mullen and Lee staying on top of things to make sure each visit is personalized. I love reading your take on the visit Momma Wingo. Thank you for being willing to share it with all of us.

It reminds me of when my wife and I first married and she and her children moved in and every time my step daughter would come over she would ring the door bell until I asked her why she was doing that when she lived there.

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outofsight said:

Amazing story. I'd like to know what schools she is talking about at the bottom?

My guess is Penn State considering wingo used to be committed there and the stories that have come out about them.
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This is excellent Mrs. Wingo. I have loved both of the stories you wrote here.

I think the fans have to know how bad our dorms are by the fact that the family had to ask a driver to take them to see what the dorms are like the regular official visits don't include going to see them.

The reason is they don't compare to the dorms at other schools.

We are way behind and will be until we get dorms and the new football building.
gator rising
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This is the first time I have heard that we are building new athletic dorms. Will they be built the same time as the football facility? Are they tied in together?
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This is a good example of how good our staff can recruit when they come together as a team.

I loved reading how Derek and his parents were treated.
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