As noted many times before, the competition continues to rage at most every position for the Gators early in fall camp.
At the strong-side linebacker spot, Darrin Kitchens, Gideon Ajagbe and Neiron Ball have gotten the most reps.
For Kitchens, his relationship with Ajagbe is more than teammates battling for time at the same position. In fact, the two share a very special relationship.
“Gideon, he’s a good friend. He’s always been there for me,” Kitchens said. “He’s been my boy since I took my first official visit here back in January 2010. Ever since then, he’s been a great friend.”
As he spoke, a giant smile spread across his face. Occasionally, the smile would evolve into laughter mid-sentence.
His excitement makes sense. While he and Ajagbe have been friends for some time now, their relationship became even stronger this offseason.
Ajagbe was the best man in Kitchens’ wedding.
In front of about 50-75 people, Kitchens married his high school sweetheart, Nathalie, at the Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Gainesville.
Just 20 years old, Kitchens admits getting married so young was not really his idea. While spending time at camp this summer, he said he had an omniscient encounter.
“It was God,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to marry her one day, but we were at camp with my church, and I was praying. God just told me to marry her.”
At first, he said he felt bad, thinking it was his own thought of marriage, not God’s. However, he felt a persistence in him that God wanted the two of them to marry, so they did.
The sudden decision appeared to have caught Nathalie off guard. Initially, she just wanted to sleep.
“At first, she didn’t want to hear what I said because it was about 4 o’clock in the morning,” Kitchen said. “Then when I told her, her eyes just popped up, and she got all excited.”
If you think the immediacy of the wedding was unusual, the wedding itself was unique, as well.
As most men would admit, the groom’s job is often to simply stay out of the way. Dealing with the intimate details is what most brides have dreamt of since the time they were little girls.
However, Kitchens was able to have a say in arguably the most important detail — the wedding dress itself.
“I picked the dress out,” he said, much to the surprise of those in the room. “I picked her dress, she picked my tux.”
Six weeks later, the newlyweds both have a new appreciation for the things in their life.
For Darrin, he is no longer working for only himself.
“I guess it gives me a little edge,” he admitted. “I’ve got a little more to push for. I’m not just fighting for myself out there.”
His bride now has a better appreciation for the sport that makes her husband tick. While she enjoyed football before, she was never the biggest fan.
“But she is now,” Darrin cracked.
With more to play for, he continues to work for more time on the field and one day a shot at playing professionally.
Before he takes the field each day, he slips off his wedding band and puts it in his locker for safekeeping.
“I think it’s sacred and I don’t want anything to happen to it,” he said.
When he returns, the ring is waiting for him. As is his new bride at home.
Here is a video featuring Kitchens and others from Gatorvision: