You could say that Duke Lemmens was struck by thunder on his official visit to Florida this weekend. The California defensive end had the most memorable experience of his life inside a football stadium Saturday night when the Florida Gators held on to beat South Carolina in a game decided on the very last play. The experience has Lemmens doing some real thinking about the recruiting process.
As the P.A system blared AC/DC’s “Thunder Struck” Lemmens soaked in the atmosphere. The decibel level was off the charts and the combination of music and a live wire crowd had all 90,734 people in The Swamp completely on edge. Lemmens, a four-star defensive end from Westlake Village (CA) Oaks Christian thought the pageantry, the game day atmosphere and the outcome of the game were hard to beat.
“It was awesome, I loved it,” Lemmens said Sunday evening. “That was the best game day experience I have ever had in my life. The Swamp deserves to be called the hardest place to play in America. When they ran through the tunnel I got chills and couldn’t even breathe. When they blocked that kick, I don’t think that stadium could have been louder. It was crazy!
“When the opening kickoff was going on and they were playing ‘Thunder Struck’ and all the players were jumping around, I have never seen a place that loud and I really don’t know what else to say.
“After the game we got to see the tailgaters. Out in California they only tailgate before the game but at Florida it goes on well after the game. I got to meet a bunch of Florida fans and players’ parents. If you are a Gator everyone loves you.”
Lemmens also met up with a friend he has made on the recruiting trail. Cincinnati (OH) defensive end Ben Martin was also in Gainesville for an official visit. The two met at the Friday Night Lights camp in Gainesville back in the summer.
“One thing that made it great was I got to hang out with Ben Martin the whole time,” Lemmens said. “He and I are good friends now and we got to hang out the whole time so that was cool.”
Lemmens arrived Friday afternoon and so he got to experience a full weekend of what the Gators do for game week. Miami defensive lineman Javier Estopinan was his host for the weekend.
“I got to see what they do on Fridays,” he said. “They call it the ‘Funnest Friday in College Football’ and that was kind of cool. They play all these games and stuff and that was pretty fun. Then we ate dinner with the team and I hung out with my host who was Javier Estopinan.”
There have been reports that the only thing keeping Lemmens from being a Gator was his father’s apprehensions about the distance between Florida and California. That’s understandable for any parent that wants the assurance that his kid is going to be happy and in the right place. Well, dad made it on the trip and according to Duke, he understands why his son likes it so much.
“My dad got there the previous night and got to spend a lot of time with me.” Lemmens said. “He still doesn’t want me to go far away, but I think now that he has seen it he understands why I like it and I think it opens the door for him to accept it a little bit more.”
He got a little more taste of Gainesville and got to spend time with the coaching staff going over what they would have in store for him if he became a Gator.
“We went out and saw the night life after the game and it was fun,” he said. “Sunday morning we had a meeting with trainers and stuff, and then we had a meeting with Coach (Urban) Meyer and Coach (Greg) Mattison.”
Then he laid it all out there as to what he thinks about Florida and his experience over the weekend. It was an experience that was helped by the atmosphere that has been generated by Gator fans and everything that has to do with a game day in Gainesville.
“It was my favorite visit,” Lemmens said. “I have one more but I don’t think I am going to take it. I am close to making a decision, and I may make it soon, but not sure when. I won’t do any kind of big thing.”
In the mean time, he knows what he wants in whatever school he does decide is right for him.
“The quality of the players on the team and the relationships you build are important,” he said. “I just want the coaches to hold me accountable and I just want a college town where I am happy when I am there.”
Will he be the next defensive end to block a kick at Florida like he saw three times Saturday night? He is tall and has the same vertical leap as Jarvis Moss, owner of two blocked kicks against South Carolina including the game winner. Is he the next in line?
“We’ll see,” he said.