With season winding down Gators still looking for leadership

R.J. Raymond has been a part of the Florida Gators football program since 2014. For more than four years he was a walk on and knew his place on the team. He was seen and not heard, worked as hard or harder than the scholarship players because if he didn’t he knew he wouldn’t have a place on the team.

After a 38-17 loss to Missouri Raymond had been silent long enough. With only two home games left in his career he could no longer sit idly by and watch another season fall by the wayside.

“I might sound a little, come off wrong on this but it’s not time to make friends,” Raymond said when asked what his message was to the team after the game. “At the end of the day it’s time to win a football game. It’s time to play for pride, play for this Gator logo. You just gotta push everybody and bring everybody up to that standard, and if there’s nothing to that standard or better that we know we gotta play to, then it’s not god enough. It’s unacceptable.”

Florida bounced back in a big way after its first loss of the season but the effort after its second loss was unacceptable. At no point last Saturday were the Gators truly competitive during a 38-17 homecoming loss to Missouri.

Prior to the loss to Georgia the Gators had a lot to play for. There was a chance to go to the SEC Championship still in reach. There were thoughts of maybe, somehow, sneaking into the College Football Playoff or at least a New Years Six Bowl game. The loss to Georgia erased the chances at a SEC East title but there was still a chance to play for a very good bowl game. Last Saturday Florida looked like a team that didn’t much care which bowl game they’d be sent to and that’s what ultimately led Raymond to speak up.

“The leaders of this team, the seniors, it comes down on us. Because we’ve been though it all. We know what it takes to go to an SEC Championship and we also know what happens when you go 4-7. We’ve been here,” he said. “That comes down on u. We’ve gotta bring everybody with us. Me C-Lew (C’yontai Lewis), CeCe, Tez, Khairi Clark, Moral, all of us; we’ve gotta bring everybody along with us. We know what it takes. We know what we can do. We just gotta do it every single play and every single day.”

Raymond is right. The message from the coaching staff has consistent all year but we’re still talking about a locker room full of 18-21 year old kids. Sometimes the message can be the same but hit differently depending on the source. Mullen and his staff have preached attention to detail and straining and really giving more than you think you can.

For most of the season that message seemed to hit home. For whatever reason, after losing to Georgia, it was lost and Raymond needed to hammer it home.

“You don’t ever wanna be called out as someone who just you know like wants to lose or just doesn’t care about the sport,” receiver Josh Hammond said. “So I think R.J. calling everybody out was definitely like a big eye opener and getting a lot of guys like really back on page of what we’re here before and what’s our goals and things we wanna accomplish this year.”

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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