Story Poster
Photo by Elksnis family
Florida Football

The Inside Scoop: An in-depth, behind the scenes look at early entry move-in day

January 23, 2021
2,373

FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Go monthly with our $1.00 Sneak Peak

Two years ago Inside the Gators first took you behind-the-scenes for an in-depth look at what early entry move-in day is like for a University of Florida football player when Rosemary White, the mother of Florida offensive line signee Ethan White, was kind enough to share her experience of moving her son into the Keys as an early entry signee with a detailed update combined with a photoblog. 

A year ago we gave our readers a behind-the-scenes look at Derek Wingo’s flip from Penn State to Florida through the eyes of his mother, Carrieann Wingo, who shared that experience, as well as how his commitment went down, with the Gator Nation.

Today, we venture down that path once again, in somewhat of a two-for-one as Katie Elksnis, the mother of tight end signee Nick Elksnis‍  document’s the journey of her son’s recruiting process during a pandemic. 

From his childhood as a Gators fan, to committing to Penn State, flipping to Florida, and finally early signee move-in day.

GROWING UP A FLORIDA FAN

Our family ties to Florida run deep. My grandfather grew up in Green Cove Springs and he and his brothers were die-hard Florida fans. For example, the three brothers share a brick on the Walk of Champions. As a family, we have held season tickets for roughly 60 years. My grandparents attended home games and traveled with busloads of Gator fans each year to away games. My siblings and I would go with them and spent many years tailgating in Jacksonville for the FL/GA game. After they passed away my mom kept the tickets and continued to go to the games with my dad and brother. They, too, traveled for years with groups of Gators fans to many away games. Mom and Dad always included our children as soon as they were old enough to go to the games. Many memories were made with them wearing Orange and Blue!

CAPTION: Nick Elksnis decked out in Orange & Blue at an early age

ELKSNIS COMMITS TO PENN STATE

The recruiting process is extremely intense and time-consuming. After Nicholas' recruitment really picked up in the spring of his sophomore year, he was fielding messages and texts constantly from coaches, recruiting personnel, reporters, etc...

He left class on many days to see a coach who had stopped by the school (All during appropriate times on the NCAA calendar - we never experienced anything that was not above board).

Some boys thrive in this setting - for Nicholas, it was a lot. This is by no means a complaint of any kind. Nicholas could not have been more grateful for the incredible opportunities he was presented. It is only given as a background for what his dad and I believe to be the reason he committed when he did.

He had already gone to multiple camps, on unofficial visits, and competed in 7-v-7 tournaments that spring and summer, with the last one being at Penn State. Relationships are everything in this process and relationships are important to Nicholas. Even though he had never met the PSU tight ends coach Tyler Bowen in person, they had developed a great rapport over the months since the Nittany Lions first offered Nicholas.

When we got there for our visit, they really rolled out the red carpet for us and made him feel like a priority for them. The tight ends coach is young and is a hunter and fisherman, giving him a lot in common with Nicholas.

He also had a good track record for developing and using tight ends.

Later in the day at the camp Nicholas ran his fastest 40 of the summer and blew them away. It felt like everything just jelled at that moment and Nicholas felt an instant connection. His dad and I were not fans of the early commitment. We actually discouraged it, but he was sure of his choice and we knew, in the end, this had to be his to own.

We went to a couple of games in the fall to get a better feel for the campus and for him to realize the distance and the effort it was to get there.

We cannot say a negative thing about the people there. We met some terrific people and had great times at the games.

FLIPPING TO FLORIDA

Unbeknownst to us at first, Florida tight ends coach Larry Scott continued to reach out to Nicholas and sell the program at UF.

Towards the end of that year (2019) Nicholas started voicing some reservations. He is a man of his word, so he basically shut down the recruiting process after his commitment.

Before the commitment, we had trips planned all throughout the fall to visit campuses and go to games, and none of that happened when he committed.

Nicholas did not want to be perceived as unreliable, but his dad and I made certain he understood that because of the significance, this was one decision he could get a 'do-over' on.

After the first of the year (2020), he reached out to the coach at Penn State to relay his concerns and let him know he needed to think about his next steps a little more.

Coach Scott emphasized that this was not just a four-year decision, but a 40-year decision; Nicholas would hang up his helmet one day and where did he see himself at that point?

He also emphasized to Nicholas that - at that time - Florida was ranked in the top 10 in public education, and was ranked as a top 10 football team as well.

No other school could say that.

At the February (2020) Junior Day, this all started to sink in for Nicholas.

Coach Dan Mullen laid out his vision of how he would use Nicholas in his offense, and it all started to make sense to him.

His dad and I were completely on board and felt UF was the obvious choice for him.

A COACHING CHANGE COULD HAVE POTENTIALLY THROWN A WRENCH IN THE WORKS

We had no sooner returned home that day when we saw on social media that Coach Scott had accepted the job at Howard University.

Nicholas worked through that though, realizing that his decision cannot be based on one coach, as they, unfortunately, come and go, or only on football.

All of the pieces needed to fit, and at Florida they did.

Nicholas became more and more sure of his choice as the weeks went by and immediately loved coach Tim Brewster and his enthusiasm when he came on board.

He liked his history as a coach developing tight ends and knew that the offense at Florida would suit him well.

Coach Brewster quickly picked up where Coach Scott left off in recruiting Nicholas and engaging all three of us in conversations to get to know one another.

A RETURN TRIP TO GAINESVILLE - MAKING THE GRANDPARENTS PROUD

Coach Brewster wanted him to come to the March Jr. Day, so he made plans to be there.

Nicholas decommitted from Penn State earlier that week on March 1st. After lots of discussion and prayer, he was certain of his next move and wanted to share that moment with his grandparents.

His dad and I had put a trip planned with friends that weekend, so my mom and dad took him to Gainesville for Jr. Day. Giving them that moment with Nicholas in Coach Mullen's office is something we will never regret. Seeing her grandson in a Gator uniform has been the thrill of a lifetime for my mom. She cannot wait to be there the first time he runs onto the field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium wearing the Orange and Blue.

Twitter
CAPTION: Elksnis poses with his grandparents on the day he committed to Florida

THE RECRUITING PROCESS DURING A PANDEMIC

The pandemic caused us to miss out on games in the fall. Nicholas had to stay away from the large crowds in order to preserve his ability to play his senior season for Episcopal. We were not able to have an official visit or experience the in-home visits from the coaches due to the NCAA rules of the time. Yes, those were disappointments in the process for sure, but in the end he is realizing his dream to play college football at the University of Florida, the biggest and best stage in the country - so the missed opportunities are now an afterthought.

LEAD-UP TO MOVE IN DAY

One other result of the pandemic was that Florida's football season was pushed back and the regular season games backed right up to the SEC Championship and the bowl game. This did not allow the staff the time they usually have to sort out move-in dates and be able to pair the recruits with roommates in the usual fashion and time frame.

Not having the official visit meant not meeting other parents and players before move-in day.

Shawnee Sellers was wonderful throughout the entire process, keeping in close contact, and was always happy to answer any of our questions. Lee Davis was fabulous, as was Ann Hughes!

They provided us with a checklist of all that needed to be done, things to bring for the dorm, and a host of other information. Nicholas turned over the reins of ‘what to bring’ to me. He really did not care what went into his dorm room and after having moved his two older sisters into school in the years before him, he knew I would know what to do.

CAPTION: Father and son on move-in day

THE DORM ROOM & ROOMMATES

Thankfully, we were all able to go with him for the move-in. Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, only one player moved into the dorm at a time. Nicholas did not need his roommate - Carlos Del Rio - until the team meeting later that afternoon.

The dorm is totally fine and completely adequate for what they need. He has a full XL bed, which is a huge help with his 6-foot-6  frame. There is furniture in the main room and a nice sized TV. The kitchen has all the major appliances and we only had to bring what he felt like he would use regarding cooking and eating.

CAPTION: The room after a mother's touch

CAPTION: Nick Elksnis and his sisters in his dorm room

MEETING BREWSTER & EARLY ENTRY MEETING

After moving in and having lunch on our own, we were able to spend some time as a family with Coach Brewster before the team meeting began. That was great, as it was the first time Darryl and I had ever met him in person (the pandemic shut everything down, to include in-person contact with coaches, the weekend after Nicholas committed in March) and our girls were there to meet him as well.

Coach Brewster has incredible energy and vision. He is passionate about what he does and having raised three boys already, who all played Division I football, he sits in a unique spot as he has a parent's perspective too.

We then went to the team meeting room in the stadium (everyone kept an appropriate distance from others in the room and all in attendance were wearing masks) where the coaches and staff were introduced, and Coach Mullen spent a good bit of time outlining the standards and expectations for player conduct and performance.

He shared his philosophy of coaching and what he considers are the keys to being successful on the field, which also correlates well to being successful in life. After the meeting, the best moment of the day came when we could go to the lockerroom and Nicholas saw his name on his locker for the first time. It was quite a moment for him, a tangible token of all that he has worked for and accomplished to this point as well as an awareness of the responsibility that goes along with it.

CAPTION: The Elksnis family meets with Tim Brewster for the first time prior to the team meeting

CAPTION: The signees and their families attended an early entry meeting during move-in day

THE AFTERMATH

Leaving him in Gainesville was hard. He is our youngest and that meant the house would be very quiet when we got home. A huge bonus, and another large part in him committing to Florida, is that home is in Jacksonville. So, we can visit him often, which would have not have been the case had he landed in Happy Valley.

We felt confident handing him over to Coach Brewster, Coach Mullen, and the team of coaches and support staff at UF.

The people and system are in place to develop him not only as a player but also as a young man who will leave one day with a world-class education. We believe everything happens for a reason and each step of this journey has had its purpose in Nicholas' growth and development as a person.

We cannot wait to see how the next chapter of his story unfolds!

(On desktop or laptop, click on each individual photo and the caption is on the bottom left-hand side. On a smartphone, simply scroll right)

The Inside Scoop: An in-depth, behind the scenes look at early entry move-in day

2,326 Views | 5 Replies | Last: 3 mo ago by Go Gators TJ
UFChad14
How long do you want to ignore this user?
This is what I needed after the end to the season.

Reading what the mom said it sounds like Mullen is back on track and there's no way to go but up.

Thank you to momma Elksnis for sharing this with us from what I've been reading her son is the heir apparent to Pitts.
Bd489
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Another great piece! I'm sure nobody likes to hear that the dorms are "completely adequate", lol.
From the Swamp
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Bd489 said:

Another great piece! I'm sure nobody likes to hear that the dorms are "completely adequate", lol.
Didn't Hughes mom say about the same thing? We have to face it that our dorms aren't that great and give credit to the staff that we are still signing top recruits sometimes.
RegGator
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Penn State should just give up recruiting players in this state that we want. We already flipped Wingo and Elksnis from them.

I like how both times the families were respectful of the PSU coaches. We need that kind of class in recruiting because it carries over to life outside of football.
Go Gators TJ
How long do you want to ignore this user?
This is the kind of story that we get because Florida is the big state school.

It happens but you don't see it as much at FSU and Miami because they haven't been around long enough to have an old school fan base.

I remember the photos of his grandparents when he visited. It's a feel good story to see this dream come true.

He is probably the best fit to take over for Pitts. I think he will pass the other TE in camp and go from there.
Refresh
Page 1 of 1
 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.