GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Top-50 overall prospect Nathan Pickering made an eight-hour drive Saturday to attend the inaugural Great Gator Grill-Out.
This marked his second visit to Florida in two months, and the latest trip exceeded expectations for the 4-star defensive end from Seminary, Miss.
“Florida is far, but it’s worth it,” Pickering told SEC Country. “I always have a great time coming here and I feel like I could have a great fit at Florida. … The visit was great. The coaches, the environment, it’s just a great place.
“I just expected to come here and eat barbecue. I walked in and they had Fortnite on the big screen, Madden on the other one. They had games. I liked that. It was very fun and shocking. I didn’t expect this to happen.”
One of those games was a water-balloon fight with the staff. Pickering took part but didn’t last long.
“I played,” Pickering said with a smile. “But I didn’t last long because I dropped the balloon. But it was fun just coming out and meeting with the players and coaches, hanging out, getting close and getting to know them better.
“I definitely saw a different side of the staff. They weren’t recruiting me as much as they were on the last visit. This time was more relaxed. They didn’t treat me like a recruit. They treated me like I’m one of their own.”
The 6-foot-4, 286-pound pass rusher said the highlight of his trip was spending more time around Florida coach Dan Mullen and defensive line coach Sal Sunseri. Pickering said Mullen is the coach he’s closest with in his recruitment.
“I love Coach Mullen,” he said. “I feel that I’m a priority to him. I’ve known him ever since Mississippi State and he wanted me as bad at Mississippi State as he does here.
“Coach Sal brings an energy like no other coach I know. His energy is really high. He’s always in good spirits, so it was great seeing him.”
Pickering is ranked the nation’s No. 4 strongside defensive end and No. 48 overall prospect in the 247Sports composite. In addition to Florida, he said LSU, Alabama, Stanford and Southern Cal are recruiting him the hardest.
Pickering said he plans to officially visit USC in June and will be back to Florida “soon.” He claims no leaders at this time.
“I’m looking for a school that’s going to develop me as a player, take care of me and get me a degree,” Pickering said. “Growing up, my mom always stressed how important grades are, so getting a degree is something I want to do. Even if I have NFL potential — I pray to God — and leave in three years, I’m still going to make sure I come back and get my degree.”