To earn the admiration and respect of your peers is one of the greatest accomplishments anyone can attain.
One of the first initiatives that Dan Mullen instituted when he met with his football team was to find out who those guys were. Being a first year head coach he didn’t know the guys on the roster. He didn’t know the personalities of his players, the relationships between them or who they looked to in times of adversity. What better way to find out than to put it in their own hands. Have his team show him who the leaders are.
Mullen instituted a “leadership council”, as he calls it. In one of his very first meetings with players Mullen told him he wanted the team to vote on eight men among them that they thought deserved that title and responsibility.
He was explaining to us, find eight guys from January to January. This team has one shelf life,” junior Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a member of the leadership group, explained. “We voted as soon as we came back. He gave us sheets. Everyone voted. The next week, we found out who was captain.”
Dan Mullen has preached intensity, hard work and accountability since he arrived in Gainesville. His coaching staff will demand that, a process started by strength and conditioning coordinator Nick Savage, but first he wanted the players to take that responsibility on their own backs. That started by having the team vote on leaders. Eight were selected: Feleipe Franks, C’yontai Lewis, CeCe Jefferson, R.J. Raymond, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Josh Hammond, Martez Ivey and junior linebacker David Reese. Those eight then in turn drafted teams, which have been competing in workouts every day since they returned to campus in January.
“We’re constantly motivating,” Mullen said Tuesday. “Within our leadership committee we have offseason competition teams. Every couple weeks we see who in that last two-to-three-week period was the first-place team all the way to the last-place team. … First-place teams go out for dinner at a restaurant in town. Last-place teams, I think this morning they went and did some community service at one of the local elementary schools early in the morning. Sometimes it will be a workout, sometimes it will be community service and other things. They get motivated to do that.”
The selection of those eight players was especially gratifying for on: Feleipe Franks. The redshirt sophomore spent most of the 2017 season chided by fans and media for his play. He took some time after the season to go over film and access his play but didn’t want to linger on it.
“I like to have the reflection period. Reflect on things that I could’ve did,” Franks said. “There’s plays like in the FSU game that I wish I could’ve had back where I look, you know, ‘Maybe I should’ve hit the flat route here. We could’ve got 10 yards instead of throwing an interception on this play.’ So it’s little things like that that you go back and watch, and it’s like, I wouldn’t do that now. It’s just gaining the knowledge of the game.”
Franks went through ups and downs including losing his starting job at two different points of the 2017 season. He was pulled mid game in the opener, heaved a 63-yard touchdown to Tyrie Cleveland to walk off with a win against Tennessee and ended the year with three interceptions in a 38-22 loss to rival Florida State.
His teammates haven’t turned their back on him.
“I’ve always wanted to lead the team and be that guy that can bring us to a championship. And I know it doesn’t seem that way, you know the way last year went,” he said. “I think it’s just a fresh start. It’s just the beginning of a fresh start to what I can do and what these guys can do going forward.”