There were plenty of reasons for Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey to leave for the NFL Draft after his junior season—the possibility of making millions of dollars, a new coaching staff coming in, an offensive line that hadn’t made many strides in his first three years. But he only needed one reason to stay.
According to Ivey, his decision was made long before the deadline, and long before he even knew who his new coach would be. It came with 7:30 remaining and his team down 21-0 in the first quarter of the Georgia game.
He knew there was no way he could move on after that embarrassing performance.
Head coach Dan Mullen received the same question multiple times at SEC Media Days on Tuesday on what magic he worked to convince both Ivey and Cece Jefferson to come back for their senior seasons, but the truth is, it didn’t take much on at least one end.
“They didn’t really convince me,” Ivey said. “It was on me and I just knew I needed to come back. Like I said, 4-7 is a bad taste and I didn’t want to leave that taste in my mouth.”
Mullen did have a condition when talking to his players about their decisions, and it was that whatever they chose, they had to commit themselves to that choice completely. Things are changing at a rapid pace around the Florida program, and it cannot afford anyone who doubts why they came back or doesn’t put in the effort every single day.
Ivey has fully embraced that mindset.
“When I came back, he did tell me ‘I want 100 percent, I don’t want no basically half-butting around’, and I was like if I come back I’m going to give you 100 percent in everything I do,” Ivey said. “That’s just how I was raised … I just proved to myself that I have to work every day and prove to my teammates that I’m going to be here. I’m going to work and they can count on me to do my job, and the harder I work, that reflects on other people and makes them work harder.”
Ivey is a huge piece to a veteran offensive line this season, and his teammates are more than happy to see him back and taking on that leadership role.
“He’s always involved with his offensive line,” Jefferson said. “They look at him for everything and I’ve never seen him lead them in the wrong direction. Ever since we got here, he’s been a guy that’s always had people depending on him. He’s a great guy, a great, genuine guy. He works hard for everything, doesn’t complain about anything. Those are the type of guys that you want on your team.”
Ivey came to Florida as a highly touted player and firmly believed he would be a three-and-out guy. He learned the hard way that those plans don’t always work out.
He also learned there’s usually a reason behind it. He said he’s seen changes in himself over the last three months that he never saw in his first three years.
“I faced that reality and it happened that way,” he said. “But I’m also glad I came back for my fourth year, getting a chance to graduate as well. You know, I also get a chance to leave a different legacy than what we left last year.”
Ivey feels he was dealt a good hand for his final season and now has coaches who will push him to be in a better position for the next level when that time comes back around.