Dan Mullen didn’t know what he was inheriting when he signed on the dotted line to be the head coach at Florida. He didn’t care though or need to be sold on the program. Mullen presided over the offense for the four best years of Gator football. He knew what the expectations would be because he was a major factor in setting the bar during his time in Gainesville.
It didn’t matter that the previous two coaching staffs hadn’t been able to live up to that because Mullen was confident in himself and his program. He was confident in the Gator standard and the Gator brand and immediately enlisted help in getting the players that made the University of Florida what it is to come back and be apart of the program.
The last coaching staff talked about it but they didn’t live up to it.
Mullen made a new role on his staff — director of player development — and hired former defensive back Vernell Brown to fill it.
“His role is Director of Student Athletic Development but part of that is former players and that connection,” Mullen said of Brown. “As student-athlete development you’re talking about job placement when these guys graduate and internships and all of that stuff.”
Brown and Mullen have combined efforts to bring back former players all spring. Major Wright, Kevin Carter, Lawrence Wright, Danny Wuerffel, Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy have spoken to the team about the Gator standard.
“This spring has been a learning experience for us,” Chauncey Gardner-Johnson said. “They’ve brought a lot of guys back that have been there, done that. When you see all these championships on the wall that’s them. They did that. We have a chance top hopefully put one on the wall for them.”
The reason Mullen wanted to have former players come back is to give a visual representation to the standard and to have each player express what the program has meant to them. It all culminated with more than 170 former football players on the sideline Saturday for the Orange and Blue game.
Not just on the sideline either. Lawrence Wright was hanging around on the sideline and snuck on the field before a play. Kyle Trask, who admitted he was nervous throwing to such a wide-open receiver, chucked it deep to Wright who caught it diving into the end zone.
Florida had another trick play up its sleeve but it didn’t go off as planned.
“I saw Feleipe try to pad his stats a little by not throwing, it was supposed to be a trick play where he throws it to Doug (Johnson) and Doug was supposed to throw it to Travis. Feleipe just bypassed Doug to keep all the stats to himself. Doug told me he was like one touchdown pass away from some sort of record. We were trying to get him there,” Mullen explained of the play.
Franks hit McGriff perfectly for a score.
Some may have taken exception to it because the stats from both plays were counted towards the final tally and Franks and Trask won’t have Wright and McGriff to throw to next season but it was more about having fun and creating memories for the former players as well as fans that watched them.
“To make sure they see those guys come back and they have some fun and for all of our fans to sit out there,” said Mullen. “You know there will be some dad sitting out there and say, hey I watched Doug throw touchdown passes to Travis when I was young and now they got to see a little of it and pass on family traditions that way and just enjoy what it is to be apart of the Gator Nation.”