RECRUITING: Perfect Visit for Steve Wilks

Since he’s long been committed to the University of Florida, this
weekend’s official visit for Steven Wilks was reaffirmation that he’s
made the right choice. The Lakeland safety, one of six Dreadnaughts
committed to the Gators, thought the weekend on the Florida campus was
everything he could have possibly dreamed it would be.

“Awesome,” said Wilks while traveling home to Lakeland. “This was a visit like none other. I don’t think you could go any other place in the country and feel like you do at the University of Florida. I don’t think there is another school that can offer you so much. The visit was perfect.”

Wilks, who measured at 6-2 and 203 pounds Saturday morning, had a great career as a safety for Lakeland’s three-time state and two-time national champs but he will be shifting to linebacker at Florida. Known as a hard hitter and a clutch time playmaker, Wilks thought one of the best parts of the visit was the time he spent with strength and conditioning coaches Mickey Marotti and Matt Balis.

“They’re probably the best strength coaches in the country,” said Wilks, who said they want him to put on another 20-25 pounds of muscle. “I’m going to keep gaining weight by doing what they want me to do.”

Wilks was down to 190 pounds when Lakeland beat St. Thomas Aquinas in the state championship game, capping a third straight 15-0 season for the Dreadnaughts. He played that game with a severe shoulder injury, a pinched nerve in his neck and on one of the first plays of the game, had his toe stomped.

“They almost had to take the toenail off on the sidelines,” he said. “I never played a whole game in so much pain but the shoulder and the pinched nerve hurt so bad that I really didn’t notice my toe so much. All I know is they weren’t going to get me off the field.”

Wilks, who forced and recovered a fumble that led to a Lakeland touchdown in that game, has gained 13 pounds back.

“I can use my shoulder again and I’m back in the weight room,” he said. “It was really killing me that I couldn’t get in there.”

His hosts for the weekend at Florida were Maurkice Pouncey and Michael Pouncey, teammates from Lakeland. The Pounceys enrolled at UF just a couple of weeks ago along with Lakeland teammates Ahmad Black and Paul Wilson.

“They love it here,” said Wilks. “They said they can’t imagine that they could go anywhere else because everything is first class at Florida. They love going to class and all the other stuff and they said they can’t wait for mat drills to start in February.

“They’re suite mates with Ahmad (Black) and Paul (Wilson). Chris (Rainey) and I can’t wait to get up here, too.”

Saturday afternoon, Wilks and all the recruits took in Florida’s number one ranked basketball team beating Ole Miss, 79-70, at the O’Connell Center. Watching the Gators was fun, but what really caught Wilks’ attention was the Rowdy Reptiles, Florida’s wacky student section.

“The student section is so cool,” Wilks said. “They’re crazy and they don’t stop the whole game. It’s really a great atmosphere for basketball.”

Saturday night’s dinner was at Coach Urban Meyer’s home where the menu included three kinds of steak, barbeque ribs and more food than Wilks could imagine.

“My eyes got bigger than my stomach,” he said. “I couldn’t eat everything … and then I got to hang around with Coach Meyer. He’s unreal. He’s everything that a coach should be. I don’t know how he remembers everybody’s name but he goes from one person to another and he knows everything about them. He’s doing all this, eating and recruiting, too. I’ve never seen a better multi-tasker than that.”

He was out with a group of players that included redshirt freshman Chevon Walker Friday night and Saturday night, he was in a large group that included Tim Tebow along with fellow recruits John Brantley (Ocala Trinity Catholic), James Wilson (Ponte Vedra Beach Nease), Chris Rainey (Lakeland), Justin Trattou (Ramsey, New Jersey) and Ahmad Paige (Sterlington, Louisiana).

“We all hung around and had a good time,” he said. “I think Gainesville is the perfect college town. I think our recruiting class is going to be awesome.”

The visit concluded Sunday morning with time in the offices of Coach Meyer and co-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who will be Wilks’ position coach. “You see why Florida does so good when you talk to them,” Wilks said. “Coach Meyer is probably the best role model you could ask for and Coach Strong … what a good man and he’s a great coach. I know I’m in good hands at Florida.”

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.