Embattled doesn’t even begin to describe the past two years of Jeff Driskel’s life. A poor performance against Miami and a pick six against Tennessee were the last two memories Florida fans had of Driskel in 2013 before a broken leg sidelined him.
He returned this season — with spring practice pushed back so that he would be able to be a full participant. He shined against Eastern Michigan and even played well against Kentucky in a triple-overtime thriller before faltering over the next month.
“It’s been tough,” Driskel said, not mincing his words. “I’m not going to say it hasn’t been difficult. But at the end of the day I’m still doing what I’ve always done. I’m still preparing to be ready to go in and make plays if my number gets called. That’s what I owe this team.”
Driskel was replaced as the starter during Florida’s bye week in favor of freshman Treon Harris. He didn’t play a single snap in Florida’s 38-20 win over the Dawgs but Will Muschamp and Kurt Roper maintained that Driskel would have a role in the offense.
It appeared against Vanderbilt. Driskel carried the ball four times for 10 yards and a key touchdown on a fourth-and-goal situation. He attempted one incomplete pass as well. The role is not one that Driskel envisioned himself playing when the season started but, the consummate team player, he’s just happy to still be able to contribute in any way possible. “Any time you can contribute to the team and to a good team win it’s a good feeling,” he said.
Driskel’s attitude is a cold glass of water on a hot summer day and magnified in stark contrast to another decision that was made last weekend. When Leon Orr decided he would rather leave the team than not be a starter, Muschamp promptly informed Orr and the team that there was no place for that in his program. No one player is bigger than the name across that orange helmet that the team straps on or the program that those letters represent.
Jeff Driskel gets that.
“I think everybody on the team should have the same sense of responsibility to the team,” Driskel said. “At the end of the day it’s a team sport and everybody has to contribute and do their part.”
Driskel is selfless. As a starter, he understood that the weight of each loss — whether warranted or not — would fall on his shoulders. Now, as a backup, he takes time to work with the new starter — the freshman who took his job — in order to make sure that the University of Florida is ready to put their best product on the field each Saturday.
“Just some simple communication things, especially in practice when we have two-minute offense going. There’s some situations he hasn’t been in as often as I have,” he said. “There’s just little tips. I’m not going out of my way to try to take over or anything like this. It’s just simple tips and reminders on the practice field and on the sideline.”
Driskel’s take and approach to everything he has endured the last two years is impactful. His moral fiber has taken the forefront of a situation that grew ugly during a short losing streak this season.
“I think it goes back to I was raised right,” Driskel said when asked how he is able to deal with all of it. “I think my parents did a really good job of instilling a sense of the team is greater than the individual.”
This is the way every parent wishes their son or daughter would handle adversity. Driskel has looked everything he has come face-to-face with this season in the eye and taken it head on. Jerry and Mary Driskel did a fine job raising their young boy into the man that he is today and the University of Florida is lucky to have a person like Jeff Driskel in the locker room and in the program.