Three Gators talk about returning to the team after 2017 suspensions

A credit card fraud scandal loomed over the 2017 Florida Gators football season like a black cloud.

In total nine players, most notably Jordan Scarlett and Antonio Callaway were accused of stealing and fraudulently using them to make purchases. All nine missed the 2017 season but were allowed back on the team after they were offered and accepted deferred prosecution agreements with the State Attorney’s office.

On Thursday three of those previously suspended players met with the media for the first time since the injury and two of them met with media for the first time ever at Florida. Freshmen linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller had only gone through a handful of practices before their freshmen seasons were derailed. Redshirt sophomore Rick Wells hasn’t played in a game heading into his third season in Gainesville.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said. Everything can be taken away from you just like that for the silly mistakes that we make. I’m just trying to bounce back and show the world what I can do on the field.”

The Jacksonville native always dreamed of playing in Orange and Blue but had his freshman season derailed in an off field incident that found himself and Tyrie Cleveland being arrested for shooting BB guns on campus. So when he was finally able to put a helmet back on and rejoin the team you could imagine his excitement.

I was smiling the whole practice just to be able to put a helmet on. It don’t matter what we’re doing,” said Wells. “As long as I’m out here I’m good.”

Wells stayed active training during his year away from the team. His teammate Ventrell Miller turned to church

I actually went to church. I actually went to church and a man (there) helped me through that,” he said. My coaching staff, they did a good job too.”

Houston credited his parents and Randy Shannon for helping him through the trying process.

Wells referred to it as a “silly mistake” but he knows the depth of what he and his teammates did and didn’t mean to trivialize it. To a man they all were grateful for the opportunity to get a chance to play football again.

“It feels good,” Miller said. “I just thank God for blessing me with the opportunity and the talent to be out here. It feels good getting back in the groove and everything.”

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC