Matt Patchan decides he’ll be a Gator

TAMPA — Forty-five minutes before he made his announcement to be a Florida Gator, Matt Patchan was still weighing all his options. On one hand, there was the family tradition of the University of Miami. On the other hand was the Gators’ recent success and the direction the program is heading. It is the possibility of those national championships that weighed heavily in the end.

(Link to video below)

“I made the decision about 45 minutes ago,” said Patchan, a 6-7, 260-pound offensive tackle from Seffner Armwood that is rated eighth best at his position nationally by ESPN.

Patchan will enroll at Florida Monday morning and begin classes Tuesday. He will be able to participate in Florida’s spring practices.

It was a level-headed decision by a 17-year-old that his father, a former player at the University of Miami, says is typical.

“He has the aptitude to go ahead and process this information which is impressive for a 17 year old,” said Matt Patchan Sr. “He can make these important decisions in his life and be at ease with it. As a father, I’m at peace with that and I feel great.”

Matt Sr. never interfered with the decision-making process except to encourage his son to think things through and make the right decision. Friday night, as decision time neared, Matt Sr. gave his son the only piece of advice he gave the entire time he was being recruited: think it over, pray about it and then sleep on it.

“He made the right call if it’s good in his heart,” said Matt Sr. “Whatever is good in his heart is the right call. He had to balance the emotion and tradition of the Hurricanes with what he thinks at this time is a better opportunity with the Gators. As a father all I could do is help him gather the information.”

Making a good decision was important for Patchan, who is the top-rated offensive lineman in the state of Florida. He said he wanted to carefully consider every single school that offered him a scholarship. He had a lot offers so there was a lot of information to process but he felt it was the right thing to do.

He also avoided making a commitment until he was certain that he knew where he wanted to go to school.

“Whenever you go through this recruiting process a lot of guys jump ship from one school to another,” Patchan said. “They say they’re committed and they’re not really committed. I know guys who have told eight different college coaches that they’re committed. That’s wrong. You’re messing with people’s lives. These are college coaches and they have families, too. They need this and you can’t go messing with their lives.”

The elimination process involved a number of considerations. Education was there at the top of the list but there were some other requirements.

“I think whenever I set my list of things,” he said.  “I wanted talent around me. I wanted a good relationship with my position coach. I wanted a good strength coach and I wanted to compete for a national championship every year and I think Florida met all of those best of anybody.”

Florida met all the requirements and Miami had tradition plus a great recruiting class coming in. That made the choice even more difficult and he realized that when he finally chose the Gators or the Hurricanes, there would be some disappointed people.

“It’s part of the recruiting process,” he said. “You’re always going to hurt somebody’s feelings. I had to do what’s best for me and what’s best for me is the Florida Gators.”

What made the difference, he says, is the desire “to play for national championships and compete against the best talent in the nation.

Patchan is the second lineman from Armwood that has chosen the Gators. He will follow in the footsteps of Mike Pearson, who starred on the Florida offensive line for three years before going to the National Football League.

“He’s more physical than I was when I went to Florida,” said Pearson, who played for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League this year. “I think he’s a hard worker that has a nasty attitude. I think that aggressive, nasty attitude is what sets him apart. I think he’s going to be a great player.”

Patchan says he knows he will be the low man on the lineman totem pole when he reports to Florida in a couple of days, but he says he’s prepared for that.

“I’ve waited all my life for this opportunity,” he said. “I know I’m going to be a college freshman in two days. Scum of the earth now but that’s great because it gives me a chance to work my ass off and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”

Although he’s lean now and needs to gain some upper body weight, he’s ready for those challenges.

“Look, there are guys in the NFL that you wonder why they’re there and how they got there,” he said. “Hines Ward can only run something like a 4.75 40 but he’s there and he is a star because he has the desire and he gives the effort.

“It’s all about determination and effort. There are a lot of players who have talent. The difference is who wants it more. If you have the determination and you’re willing to do the work and make the effort, that’s what will set you apart. I’m ready to work as hard as I have to. There might be more talented guys but I’m ready to out-work everybody to succeed.”

Watch Patchan’s announcement on video

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.