Bo Williams – “It’s Great to be a Gator.”

Northeast High School (Oakland Park, Fl) Coach Adam Ratkovich described Bo Williams as a young man who “started as an average student who was a track star, to (become) an outstanding student who was one of the top recruits in the country.” Bo is a young man whom the entire Gator Nation can be especially proud to call their own.

Almost 50 schools, representing every major conference forwarded offers to the Williams household.

In the end it came down to his early favorite Pitt Panthers, a team that features a strong running back and has an ex-NFL head ball coach, long time favorite Florida State, where close friends are and the University of Florida, a team that had started courting him in June, but as late as a month ago was felt to be a poor fit. All three caps were on the podium when an obviously nervous and excited young man took center stage.

Soft spoken, somewhat shy Bo Williams took a deep breath, stalled to collect his wits, sighed and picking up the Gator hat, said “I like the Gators and everything” and put down the cap, picking up the Pitt hat “Pittsburgh is a great program.” put it down, picked up and put on the FSU hat, saying “and FSU, well you know” and then put it down.

“I sat down with my grandma, got down on my hands and knees and prayed on this, you know and my family wanted me to make the right decision. I had to do some thinking, but, as long as I knew that my family and my coaches and my family here at Northeast High School were going to support me, no matter what team I chose….I wish I could attend all three, but I can’t… so, I will have to say.. I will be a Florida Gator.”

Cheers and tears followed. A sister took off her jacket to show a Gator T shirt (the one with “we’re not snobs” on the front, “we’re just better than you” on the back) did a short parade and sat – making it apparent that at least one person knew ahead of time. (His mother told me before the mini media circus he didn’t even tell her.)

I asked Bo, the others are very fine schools, what put it over the top for the University of Florida? “It all came down to the conversations with the coaches from each school. And what stood out to me the most was Coach Drayton, the running backs coach at Florida. He sat down and told me how good I could be on the field and how successful I would be at the next level. But he also told me that not only can he make me become an outstanding athlete on the field, he would take me and develop me and make me become a young man.” “That meant a lot to me. A young man overall…, so I’m a Gator.”

Bo is also an early entrant, starting classes in January 2007. Discussing that he said, “It is going to be a great advantage, the athletes are there. I know I am going to get there and work hard, and do the best that I can. In the classroom.. I WILL succeed in the classroom. That’s first. That’s my advantage over the other guys (non-EE). I know I am going to work hard, I’ve been doing it all my life.

Bo has already decided on a major, Exercise Physiology – Noting that Florida has a great medical school.

He also named a player at UF that he especially bonded with on his recent visit. “We hung out, we went out. It was different from other visits as he really wanted me to be a part of the team, not so much like the other places didn’t really want me to be a part of the team, like it was “All American” … whatever. But he really wanted me to come and be a part of the success of the team and win national championships.” The player, Freshman running back Mon Williams.

Bo then answered a question and talked about Coach Drayton and what he thinks he needs to get better at; “Everything, holding the ball, lateral movement… I want to get better, that’s why I am going to Florida.” “I am like clay, I can be molded” Asked are you saying you are coach-able? “Definitely.”

The best thing he is taking from Northeast High? “Never give up.”

What followed was something that showed the heart of this young man. He spent time naming the teachers he was thankful for, his coaches and then his parents. One in particular came up to give him a hug and tears just flowed. Bo Williams is not just a student-athlete at Northeast High School. He is their heart, the genuine article and now, a Florida Gator.

Bo is a bit over six foot tall, runs the 40 in 4.4 time and weighs in at 205lbs with a frame that can easily handle another ten, maybe fifteen. Bo knows however that it is not just his natural ability that is important. He has a good size, and loving family. Mom, dad, grandma and sisters were there along with a horde of friends and faculty.

I asked Mom about the recruiting process. “It is a nightmare and I am just glad it is over,” she said. Father added, “It was like we were being recruited, not just Bo, and I guess we were. One coach says this, another that. It was hard to tell who was telling the truth sometimes. We just want Bo to make the right decision for him, this really is the family he is going to have for the next four years… and I am also very glad it is finally over.”

For those of us in the Gator Nation that know what a fine young man and exceptional talent Bo Williams is; so are we. So are we.