Where would Kadarius Toney be today had he not agreed to a position change shortly after arriving in Gainesville? Maybe quarterbacking at a Group of Five school or still coming in for five or six snaps a game at Florida.
He almost certainly would not be just weeks away from becoming a (projected) first-round draft pick.
“I reflect on it from time to time,” Toney said of his decision to switch to wide receiver. “More on the basis of how it really changed my life in a way. Because I wouldn’t be here today probably if I didn’t make that change, if I didn’t become a team player in that way. I think about it, but it’s like I realize what it’s actually done for me, like put me in a position to be successful.”
Toney’s success as a receiver did not come easily or quickly, though.
Up until his senior season in 2020, Toney remained mostly a situational playmaker. He would come in and make a big play or two most games, but not see the field much after that.
He possessed a natural skill set most players would give anything to have, but many of the technical skills still eluded him.
Toney knew he had to put in the effort if he wanted to become a mainstay in Florida’s offense. So, he did.
“I just took advantage of opportunity that was given,” he said. “If I’m out here to make a play, I’ve got to make it every time and I’ve just got to stay consistent. It was more of that kind of build-up throughout the whole year. It was more I know exactly what I’ve got to do as far as putting in work on the field, watching film, locking in with Kyle Trask, like different workouts and stuff. It took a lot to really transition to where I am.”
If the Gators’ offense was on the field in 2020, Toney probably was, too. All of his work culminated in him becoming the team’s leading wide receiver, with 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns.
But he couldn’t take all of the credit for his incredible transformation. Some of that belongs to his coaches. And Toney had a message for other receivers who want to be in his position one day.
“Any receiver looking to go to college and be successful, I’ll say go to Florida for real, because Billy Gonzales,” Toney said. “He really transformed me into what you see today.”
Head coach Dan Mullen might be known as the quarterback guru, but his instincts served him well in handing Toney over to Gonzales.
Like many players in today’s climate do, Toney could have easily packed his things and transferred to a school willing to give him a shot at his position of choice. Instead, he stayed the course on a long and difficult (but well worth it) path.
Soon, it will pay off in a big way when Roger Goodell calls his name.
“He’s a guy that loves football,” Mullen said. “And when you get around him, he’s just a great person to be around. So, I think every time there’s a question about him, he comes back and he answers it and he proves that he is elite and one of the top players in this year’s draft.”