Jim McElwain building the Gators brand on and off the field

In just one season as the head coach of the Florida Gators, Jim McElwain brought new life to a program that was in desperate need of a savior. He turned a team that struggled to reach the .500 mark in recent years into a ten win, SEC East Championship team.

There is little doubt, McElwain knows how to build good football players, but his goals run much deeper than that. While developing outstanding players on the field, he is working to shape even better people off the field.

He teaches his players to build their individual brand on and off the football field, whether it is good or bad is their decision. He believes they should have the freedom to make their own mistakes and learn from them. At SEC Media Days, he discussed giving his players the freedom to do and say what they want on social media, rather than censoring them, as many other programs do with their student athletes.

“I’m not here to censor our guys. I’m here to help them. I’m here to educate them,” said McElwain. “I think the key here is the education piece, understanding you have a choice to use it to affect your brain in a positive way or sometimes maybe say whoops. But you don’t get any do-overs. That’s part of the education piece.”

Coach Mac strives to build an environment where his players feel comfortable to come to him not only about football, but about their personal issues as well. His father-like demeanor makes players gravitate towards him and work even harder on the field, because they know his compassion carries over off the field.
When asked what it’s like to play for McElwain and the rest of the Florida coaching staff, players have nothing but the upmost praise and respect for their coaches. “It makes things a lot easier, because you know they care about you as a person and also on the field,” said redshirt senior, Marcus Maye.

I can tell you from personal experience, nothing turns an athlete off more than playing for a coach who does not have their best interest at heart. If I had played for a college coach who cared about me as a person, I would still be playing college softball, and you wouldn’t be reading this article.

McElwain’s door is always open. His famous peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with or without crust) are not just a mid-day snack to him. The sandwiches are a way to invite players in to get some one-on-one time off the field. He knows they will always come for the food. While his players enjoy the perfectly made PB&J, he tries to pass on a life lesson or two along the way.

Coach McElwain is going above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of every player in the Florida locker room, teaching fans, current players, and recruits what it truly means to be a Gator.

Anyone can speak of the impact that McElwain makes in his players’ lives, but actually hearing it from them makes it worth something. Jarrad Davis wowed the media on Monday at SEC Media Days, as he spoke of his coach and what is expected of himself and his teammates. In a few short minutes, he perfectly encapsulated the pressures to do the right thing as a student athlete and what is expected of football players at the University of Florida.

Davis commended his coaches for creating both great football players, as well as phenomenal men in a world where doing so is nearly impossible.
“If I were to go out and jeopardize all the work and time that they invested in me, I mean that’s extremely selfish,” he said.

That statement shows the type of character Jim McElwain is working to build in each and every one of his players. Davis was recently nominated for both the Wuerffel Trophy and the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which are given for doing work in the community.

“Coach Mac’s biggest rule is to do what’s right.”

Bailiegh Carlton
A lifelong sports fan, Bailiegh Carlton knew from a young age that she wanted to work in sports in some capacity. Before transferring to the University of Florida to study journalism, she played softball at Gulf Coast State College. She then interned for Gator Country for three years as she worked toward her degree. After graduation, Bailiegh decided to explore other opportunities in the world of sports, but all roads led her right back here. In her time away, she and her husband welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. When she isn't working, she can almost always be found snuggled up with sweet baby Ridley, Cody and her four fur babies.