“I’m a Gator,” said DeMarcus Van Dyke, who loves the thought that Coach Urban Meyer’s goal at the University of Florida is to field the fastest team in America. Friday morning, Van Dyke committed to Meyer and the Gators, a merger of Meyer’s philosophy with the eye-popping reality of electronically timed 4.25 speed in the 40-yard dash.
Van Dyke chose the Gators over Miami and Ohio State Friday morning on ESPN, selecting Florida because it meets his needs.
“Let’s see, it’s a great school with a great football program that’s on the way up and I like the way Coach Meyer is,” said Van Dyke, a 6-1, 165-pound corner with speed to burn from Miami’s Monsignor Pace. “He’s a really cool guy that’s like a father to every one of his players. I like the way he treats people. I love the way he was straight up with me when I came to visit.”
And then there was the visit.
Van Dyke made his official visit to Gainesville the weekend of the South Carolina game. The Gators made a dramatic fourth quarter comeback in that game and sealed victory when Jarvis Moss leaped high to block a field goal on the game’s final play.
“I loved the atmosphere,” said Van Dyke. “That’s what did it for me. The fans went crazy. It was so loud and so wild the whole game. Then in the locker room after the game Coach Meyer gave a speech to the players and he said ‘you’re either a Gator or you’re Gator bait.’ Well, I’m a Gator now.”
The recruiting process was a grind for Van Dyke. He originally committed to Miami but he kept his options open throughout the fall, largely because of the rumors that Coach Larry Coker would be fired at the end of the season. Van Dyke had stayed in touch with Meyer and Coach Doc Holliday throughout the entire process and the more negative publicity that was heaped on the Hurricanes from the state and national media, the more that Van Dyke considered Florida.
He looked long and hard at every aspect of the Florida program, from the way that Meyer treats his players to the Gators’ winning ways on the football field to the educational value of a Florida degree. In the end, he decided that Florida offered the best opportunity.
“I think Coach Meyer treats his players like men but he listens to them and helps them grow up,” said Van Dyke. “The Gators are 11-1 and they’re playing for a championship this weekend.
“The school is great. I want to major in business and someday I want to own my own restaurant. I think you can get a great education at Florida. The business school is one of the best there is. When I added it up, I thought Florida was best for me.”
Florida graduates two of its top three corners (Reggie Lewis and Tremaine McCollum) and next year Ryan Smith, who leads the Gators with seven interceptions, will be a senior. That means there is playing time for a fast corner with designs on locking down his opponent.
“A freshman has a chance to play at Florida, especially at cornerback,” said Van Dyke. “Coach Meyer has proved that he’ll play a young guy so it’s up to me to come in there, play hard and practice hard every day and earn a chance to play as a freshman. One of my strengths is that I practice hard and I play hard every play.”
He had five interceptions this year and he doubled as a wide receiver where he caught 17 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns. He likes catching the football but even more, he enjoys shutting down someone on defense.
“My philosophy is this man can’t beat me and if you throw the ball my way, I’m going to intercept it,” said Van Dyke.
Asked what happens once the ball is in his hands, he responded, “Touchdown! Once I catch it you’ve got to catch me.”
Catching him once he turns on the jets isn’t the easiest thing in the world. He intends to prove that he’s not just the fastest man running the 40 this spring, but the fastest man on the track. He has his sights set on winning the state track title in both the 100 and 200 meters.
“My goal in the 200 is 20.89,” he said. “I hit 21.35 last year and I’m faster than that. I want to win the 100, too. I want to finish with two state championships.
He’s will enroll at Florida in June for Summer B. He is coming to Gainesville with a lunch pail mentality.
“I’ll show up and work every day,” he said. “I’m hungry to learn and I want to earn my playing time. I’m coming up there with the idea that I can outwork everybody and get on the field.”