Trey Dean is sitting in his room a week before he’s set to sign a National Letter of Intent. The four-star safety has his choice of schools, more than 40 offers from schools around the country. He sits in his room surrounded by Florida Gator memorabilia, but hasn’t heard from the Gators and isn’t even considering the school.
“That would have been crazy if I would have went somewhere else,” Dean told Gator Country’s Andrew Spivey. “I was going to leave it up there. It was a childhood dream.”
Dean grew up a Florida fan his uncle played there and he’s cousins with former Florida Gator safety, and now graduate assistant, Ahmad Black. Dean’s ties to Florida run deep, they were the first school to offer him a scholarship back in June of 2016 after a camp.
“When I got the offer I said I’m going to Florida,” he recalled.
Dean didn’t commit then and offers started rolling in. Florida, his dream school, simply didn’t put in the time of effort that other schools did. Tennessee came in and Dean went to visit twice. He committed to Butch Jones and Charlton Warren last August after an unofficial visit. Dean remained committed to Tennessee even as their season began to take a downward spiral and rumors about Jones’ future with the program hit a feverish pitch. He visited Alabama, who had recently offered him in December and decommitted from Tennessee six days later.
In his mind he was done with the recruiting process. He couldn’t brush his teeth at home without seeing a Gator logo or something orange and blue, but that was the only time Florida had his attention.
Meanwhile, Dan Mullen was hired at Florida and was relentlessly hitting the road to try and build his first recruiting class. After accessing the players that were committed to Florida before he got there and finding out which ones he wanted to continue pursuing he turned his attention to other players. Dean, with his connection to Florida, immediately stuck out.
“One of my coaches went to Mississippi State and he asked if I was interested in Florida. I said I’m locked in to Alabama. I’m going to Alabama,” Dean told his high school coach. “The next day he asked again and I said I’d give them a chance.”
With an opportunity to talk to one of the best defensive backs in Georgia Mullen brought in the big guns. He brought Chris Rumph and Todd Grantham with him to meet with Dean at his school and something they said clicked.
“I wasn’t going to take anymore visits but something felt right.”
Dean took his visit to Florida and Mullen’s attention to detail hit him right away. Dean stayed in the same hotel (nearly the same room) that he stayed in when he camped and was officially offered a scholarship by Florida.
“I think they did it on purpose,” said Dean. “The hotel I stayed at when I was at camp I stayed at for my official visit. When I walked in it started bringing back memories because that was my first offer. I stayed in the hotel that I got my first offer in and they like lined up everything the same. We went to the indoor, the stadium and it was really breathtaking.”
The second day was just as surprising for him. When Dean arrived on campus Florida didn’t have a defensive backs coach hired yet. There were rumors that former Miami Dolphin Pro Bowler Patrick Surtain would be offered the job but nobody knew who the coach was or would be.
Dean was woken up by a phone call on the second day of his official visit to Florida. The message was to come down for breakfast and that the new defensive backs coach would be down there waiting. A couple coaches that had recruited Dean had been in contact but he didn’t know who he was looking for. Then he saw a familiar face in Charlton Warren, the defensive backs coach at Tennessee that Dean had committed to.
“I’m thinking, ‘are you supposed to be here?’ He had a Gator shirt on and I didn’t even know nothing,” Dean recalled laughing. “I said you’re the DB coach they’re talking about. I thought they were playing. I didn’t know until I got down there but I was real excited.”
In a matter of a week Florida went from an afterthought to in a dogfight with Alabama for Dean’s signature.
Dean had already turned Saban down once when he committed to Tennessee. Could Mullen and his staff get Dean to say no to Saban twice?
With just days left to the first early signing period Dean was overwhelmed. He had coaches from all over the country calling him and sending him letters of intent to sign, just incase he had a change of heart. But he was down to Florida an Alabama.
At the end of the day it was Mullen’s pitch that won Dean over.
“Just talkin about things outside of football — the network, the degree and everything. After that I knew it was the place that God wanted me to be,” Dean said. “Coach Mullen didn’t really talk football or bring it into the equation because football is going to handle itself.”
Dean was half of a big one, two punch for Florida. His friend Emory Jones committed three hours before Dean did and the two are already planning their first days in Gainesville. Both will enroll early in January with sights set on playing and making an impact.
“It’s very exciting. I’m waiting for the next season. I think we’re going to do big things,” Dean said. “We have Emory at quarterback and we’re going to start a lot of freshmen. A lot of freshmen.”
A few weeks ago Dean was ready to pack up his childhood room and head to Tuscaloosa. He’d leave the Gator memorabilia in the bathroom there, trading it in for Crimson. Now he’ll continue a legacy that started when he was in elementary school. Ahmad Black left big shoes to fill and Dean is ready to live out his childhood dream.
“It’s just crazy how things circled right around,” he said. “Starting day one being committed sophomore year and then coming back on the last day.”