They say you always remember the first. The first commitment for the Florida Gators 2007 football signing class is Orlando Jones defensive end Jerry Howard who decided to be a Gator way back in early April. He remains committed, but will take some visits, just to confirm what he already believes is a good decision.
Howard wanted to attend Friday Night Lights (FNL) a little over a week ago, but a large family reunion kind of got in the way of all of that. FNL Year II brought in some of the nation’s top prospects but Howard just couldn’t get to Gainesville.
“I have been traveling with my family this summer,” Howard said. “I just got back from my family reunion in Atlanta and that’s why I missed Friday Night Lights. I met a cousin that is a sports agent there and that was kind of cool.”
Howard actually showed up in Gainesville a week later and spent a day with the coaching staff. He assured them that his visits are just a little justification in his decision.
“I am still committed to Florida,” he said. “My parents have decided they want me to make sure I am making the right decision. That visit list is in the air but I am sort of interested in Florida State, North Carolina State, Nebraska, Clemson, and Auburn.”
A report from a slanted fan site last week inferred that Howard’s father was pressing him towards Florida State. Howard laughed off and denied that accusation.
“It’s not that, he wants what is best for me,” Howard said of his father. “I grew up a FSU fan, and they are going to remain in the picture. Personally my dad likes Florida. He is not pushing me (to FSU). That isn’t the case at all.”
The five schools that may get a visit are in the list for a reason, and Howard shared those with us.
FSU: “I like their winning mentality. They go out there and compete for a national championship every year. They put people in the draft and graduate players with a degree. For FSU I am looking to visit December 8-10 during bowl practice week.”
NORTH CAROLINA STATE: “I have a teammate (Jarvis Williams) that went there. I also like Coach Amato and Coach Dixon.”
NEBRASKA: “They were the first team that offered me. I am going to take the visit like I promised. I like Coach Jordan and I will have a chance to compete as a freshman.”
CLEMSON: “They are young and Coach (Tommy) Bowden has brought them up tremendously.”
AUBURN: “I like Coach Price, the defensive ends’ coach. He is a down to earth guy and doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He puts people in the league year in and year out.
Just hearing him talk about Florida would assure the most avid Gator fan that Howard’s heart still belongs in Gainesville. There is just so much for him to like.
“It’s like Harvard,” he said. “It is one of the hardest places to get into. I am all about getting my degree and they offer a great business program.”
“I like the coaches. I call Coach Strong and he keeps texting me. I am starting to build up a great relationship with him. I talk to Coach Meyer a lot too. Coach Mattison came out and watched me at practice a couple of times also.
“The depth chart at Florida is huge for me. It just shows me that I can come in and play as a true freshman. I want to be the next Mario Williams.”
And the Gators will definitely have a chance to show Howard a little more love before this recruiting process is over.
“I will probably take my official to Florida in January,” he said. “I am going to try and visit Florida for every game I am not visiting somewhere else.”
The final evaluation of his college destination will come down to a few select criteria.
“It’s going to be where my parents like,” he said. “I have to feel comfortable there and somewhere that my degree means something.”
He sounds like such a grown young man to only be a senior in high school. He is wise beyond his years and will use that wisdom to try and lead a very green group of Tigers onto the field this senior season.
“Our team is young, but at any given moment I think we can beat anyone,” he said. “I just have to step up and take a leadership role. Last year we were senior oriented, but now I am going to have to take charge of these young guys.”
Jerry “Jay” Howard will prepare for his senior season in football and basketball. He wants to win a second state championship for his father, the Jones basketball coach, so he’s decided to take a pass on early college entry. The Gators will be chomping at the bit to get him signed and delivered on signing day, but for now, the anxiety of a change of any kind should not be very great.