GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the obvious storylines this week leading up to Florida’s rivalry clash with Georgia on Saturday in Jacksonville is Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio returning to the stadium where he watched his dad coach for so many years.
Del Rio discussed his connection to EverBank Field on Monday, and Florida coach Jim McElwain was asked on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday about how his quarterback has benefitted from growing up around an NFL head coach.
“I tell you what, there’s something about just a coach’s son and growing up around the game, and of course he grew up around a high level in the game,” McElwain said. “Some of us grew up around high school coaches or whatever. But he’s a guy that because of that, because he saw guys wanting to perfect their craft, the way he goes about his weekly work schedule and that type of thing is really something that our guys took note of and how you go about every single day implementing a plan and studying it ahead of time, those type of things. I think it’s just, it’s special.”
Jack Del Rio coached the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2003-11 and is now in his second season as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders.
With the Raiders playing back-to-back games in Jacksonville last Sunday and in Tampa this week, the team remained in Florida in the meantime. So the elder Del Rio will get a chance to see his son play Saturday, flipping roles in the stadium where they spent so much time together.
That reminded McElwain of a picture he saw of the two.
“One of the greatest photos that I saw was one of him when he was probably about, I don’t know, 9 or 10 years old. He’s walking across the field there in Jacksonville with his dad in a coat and tie just like the team. You know what, it’s something that warms your heart and I’m just glad he’s here,” McElwain said.
He also retold the story of how he first became aware of the quarterback when he was still the offensive coordinator at Alabama, and how their paths have crossed at every stop since then as McElwain moved on to Colorado State and now Florida.
“I was aware of Luke back when he was an eighth grader and he came to camp at Alabama. It wasn’t because of arm strength at the time, but the way he handled himself and did things, we actually moved him up with the big guys in that camp and he did a heck of a job,” McElwain said. “From that point on, when they ended up moving to Colorado, he was the first quarterback I offered. He’s a guy that understands the game and enjoys it. …
“I take pride in the fact that a coach of Coach Del Rio’s stature entrusted his son with our program. That’s something I take a lot of pride in.”