The final horn blows to signal the end of practice. Dan Mullen gathers his team around for a few final words, then each position coach takes his group to speak with them before the players are formally dismissed.
Group by group players leave the practice field, stop at the Gator Fuel truck for a protein shake on their way back to the stadium. Every group except one.
The defensive backs stay behind working a press release drill up the field 10-15 yards at a time until the reach the other side of the field, or until they’re satisfied with the work they’ve done.
Bruce Lee famously said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
That’s what the defensive backs are doing and Florida has Marco Wilson to thank for that.
“Everybody is working in the country. Not everybody is doing extra work though,” Wilson said. “Separate yourself — being average and being great.”
Wilson is lucky. His father, Chad played football at Long Beach State and Miami and his older brother Quincy set an example for him. It was Chad that instilled this sense of work ethic in all three of his kids.
“We always told them you’re going to work hard at something,” Chad Wilson told Gator Country. “We didn’t know what that would be when they were babies spitting up on themselves but they were going to work hard at whatever it was they wanted to do.”
Chad had the opportunity to coach defensive backs at American Heritage High School when Marco was there. One day during Marco’s sophomore season Chad told Pat Surtain Jr., Tyson Campbell, Marco and the rest of his defensive backs that they needed to go above and beyond the time limits of practice.
“I told them that this was their team. We can coach them but it’s their team,” Chad Wilson said. “If you stay after practice for just 10 minutes a day, we practice five times a week that’s almost an hour extra a week. We practice for about 15 weeks in high school, so that’s 15 hours of extra work that you’re putting in.”
The message clicked. Every day after practice at American Heritage Wilson, Surtain and Campbell would work. They’d back pedal up and down the field long after the rest of their team had already hit the showers. It’s no coincidence that Wilson is at Florida, Surtain Jr. is at Alabama and Campbell just started his first ever game at Georgia.
“My dad just filled that in my mind. Every day after practice me and Pat Surtain would do 100-yards, working on press releases, all of that,” Marco said. “Then Friday night, when the game comes we see who really worked and who really didn’t. I just kept that mentality.”
Wilson brought that work ethic with him to Florida and now every cornerback stays after practice, silently working as a group.
Another practice ends, players leave the field and the cornerbacks stay behind. After a near three hour practice they have to help each other peel shoulder pads off of sweat drenched undershirts. Then they line up. Practice is over but Wilson and the cornerbacks are just getting started.