GAINESVILLE, Fla. — High school football players are told not to commit to a coach during the recruiting process, but it comes with the territory.
The relationships they build with coaches are meaningful and influential. And when a head coach personally recruits you and gets your signature, it’s a special feeling.
For 30 members of the Florida football team, they experienced that with Will Muschamp. And on Saturday, they’ll face their former coach and his South Carolina Gamecocks.
“It’s going to be fun,” UF safety Marcus Maye said. “I’m excited for it. I got recruited by him, a bunch of us did.”
Maye is the only remaining player from Florida’s 2012 class, the first of two consecutive top-5 classes signed by Muschamp. Maye and six players from the 2013 class will have their Senior Day ceremony prior to the game.
Their final time playing in The Swamp is against the man who brought them there.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” Maye said.
Perhaps Muschamp and Gators coach Jim McElwain should both greet the seniors as they come out of the tunnel. Linebacker Daniel McMillian, who said he considered transferring after Muschamp was fired in 2014, will be in the starting lineup again Saturday after making his first career start against Arkansas.
“I get a chance to play against Muschamp and show him how much I’ve improved as a player and as a person,” McMillian said.
Muschamp isn’t one to guarantee playing time or making promises to recruits. He did, however, make quite a pitch to McMillian.
“He was just like, ‘It’s the University of Florida, you get a degree from here you can get a job anywhere.’ I can be an astronaut,” McMillian said.
Muschamp did have a hard time landing some of Florida’s seniors. Wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood wasn’t interested in UF initially, but came around after Muschamp convinced him to visit the school.
“He just made it feel like a family vibe,” Fulwood said. “I went to a lot of places and you really didn’t get that feeling everywhere you go. Every time he saw me, he asked how my mom was, my sister. All of the coaches, they asked me how my well-being was. So I felt like that was the big thing.”
So did defensive tackle Joey Ivie, who said Muschamp’s hospitality won him over. The highlight of his recruitment was the in-home visit from Muschamp and the staff, even though it didn’t go as planned.
“My mom was going to cook,” Ivie said. “But something went wrong, I don’t remember exactly, but we ended up ordering and having Chinese take-out. It was my family and the coaches eating Chinese take-out at the dinner table.
“When you’re a kid and you build relationships with a coach like that … you’ll always have that.”
Ivie said those feelings remain, even though he and the seniors don’t communicate with Muschamp anymore. But when any one of those 10 defensive starters he recruited makes a play along the South Carolina sideline Saturday, they’re going to let him know about.
“Oh, definitely,” Maye said with a grin. “There will be a lot of emotions, but it’s a competitive nature on the field. … This is something that’s definitely been circled on the calendar.”