When it came time to make the final choice, Gator Nation might be what made the difference for Duke Lemmens. The Westlake (CA) Oaks Christian four-star defensive end committed to the Florida Gators on Sunday and made his announcement public today. The people in Gainesville — players, fans, and the community — all made a big impact on Lemmens’ decision to become a Florida Gator.
Lemmens did his homework. He visited multiple schools and looked into every detail about all of them. He left no stone unturned. There was one place that he visited and every time he just got that fuzzy feeling inside.
“I visited four schools officially and unofficially about eight or nine,” Lemmens said. “I went to Gainesville three times and every time I had this unique feeling that I didn’t have anywhere else. I can see myself being there for the next four years of my life. It is a place I think I can succeed on and off the field. Of all the programs I looked at they have the brightest future. I want to be a part of something big and I think that is going to be happening at Florida.
“I am going to be a Florida Gator.”
It was a climactic tour for Lemmens. Every time he came to Gainesville there seemed to find something better to like about UF and the community than found the time before. He came in the spring and loved the small college town with all the Gator fans. He came in the summer and competed against some of the best at Friday Night Lights. Then, he got to really see what The Swamp was about and how 90,000 fans can act as one and really make a difference for their team. “The first time out there I fell in love with the campus,” he said. “I just talked to some old guy at the hotel telling me I have to be a Gator and everyone else is just Gator bait. You just don’t get people out here telling you stuff like that. Each time I just got the feeling more and more that being a Gator is like being part of a family. “When that field goal was blocked I can’t describe the noise I heard. I thought my ears were going to bleed. The fact that after that kick the people didn’t start leaving the stadium to get to their cars, not one person left that stadium.
“The people made a huge impression on me. After the game I met al the player’s families. Being from California it could be hard because I might not fit in, but everyone there takes care of each other.
“I fit in with the players down there and I can see myself being lifelong friends. There were just so many things that just were signs that I should go there.”
If there was a single person that influenced his decision the most it was Co-Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach Greg Mattison. For Duke, Mattison seems like a family man and someone he would do anything to play hard for.
“Hands down it was Greg Mattison,” Lemmens said. “From day one he was just so sincere to me. To tell you the truth, coming into this thing, I never dreamed of getting a scholarship from Florida or even getting looked at. I don’t even know how my tape got there, my coach just sent out a bunch of tapes and Coach Mattison wrote me. He is the most caring guy and someone I want to play for. The position coach is one of the most important things and I can’t imagine myself not working my tail off for him.”
Lemmens actually committed to the Gators on Sunday and personally to Head Coach Urban Meyer. He explained that there was no turning back from this decision.
“I gave him my commitment on Sunday,” Lemmens said. “He had me in his one-on-one meeting with me and he told me how Coach Mattison looks at me like a son and how they really want me. I had already planned on it before we sat down and I just told him that I wanted to give him my commitment and I am a man of my word. He then called Coach Mattison in and he was just as happy as can be.”
One last person needed to be won over on his latest trip to Florida. Duke’s father is still coming to terms with the distance factor coming all the way from California. Duke knows his father understands exactly why he chose Florida. The distance thing will wear of.
“I am not sure if my dad is won over yet, but it’s my decision and he knows,” Lemmens said. “He is just worried he won’t be able to see me as much. I know we will work it out and he will be a Gator sooner or later I promise. There is no way he couldn’t go there and see what I see. He went to that game and has been to plenty of games on the west coast and there is nothing equal to it.”
Lemmens also wanted to comment on the other schools that recruited him. There were a fine group of coaches from many schools that wanted Lemmens on their defensive line and he appreciates the sincerity and hard work of all involved.
“I also want to say that it was real hard making the decision,” he said. “All the other coaches that were recruiting me are all classy guys and awesome coaching staffs. I had to choose one but I am just so thankful that all of these coaching staffs that recruited me the way they did, but I could only choose one.”
In the future, the Gators have a lot to look forward to in Duke Lemmens. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, he ran a 4.55 on grass at Friday Night Lights on a hot July night before his senior season. He also vertical jumped 34 inches. He may be the next one to block a field goal for the Gators. Whatever he does, Gator fans will be getting the best from Duke Lemmens.
“They should expect that no matter what the situation is I will be going as hard as I can and as long as I can,” Lemmens said. “I am going to be doing whatever I can do to make the Gators win. I would just love to get some sacks and pump up that Gator crowd, because there are no better fans in the country than Gator fans.”