ORLANDO, Fla. — Jim McElwain is a man of mantras.
The Florida coach has shared several sayings and catchphrases that represent his basic beliefs, such as avoiding the dead fish aisle at Winn Dixie.
One of his McElwainisms is the idea of making choices. It’s a simple concept he applies to a complex problem.
A few Florida players have faced suspensions this year, but when announced, McElwain did not say they violated a team rule or were being disciplined.
Instead, they made a choice.
The latest is freshman running back Jordan Scarlett, who will miss Friday’s Citrus Bowl after a citation for marijuana possession this month.
“Jordan Scarlett made some choices,” McElwain said Tuesday. “He’s not going to play in the game, but he’ll be back with this team.”
“I tell you, he’s a great kid and handled it the way you should handle it. Stood up, honest, and I’m proud of him for that.”
Florida’s Jalen Tabor has received similar praise from McElwain. A poor choice in September cost him the Tennessee game, but McElwain said the sophomore cornerback made a complete transformation after his suspension.
Tabor was a wearing a wristband Monday with the word “CHOICES” on it.
“You always have freedom of choice but not freedom of consequence,” Tabor said. “If you make the right choice and do what you’re supposed to do in life, you’ll be fine. That’s why I got it on my wrist.
“It’s up to you to make the right choice and the right decision.”
That’s easier said than done for some players. Gators defensive end Alex McCalister was suspended for the season opener and apparently didn’t learn his lesson, getting dismissed from the team earlier this month.
Another UF player, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson, was suspended for the Florida State game after being benched twice during the year.
As McElwain continues to mold the Florida program the way he wants it, having players who make the right choices is one of his priorities. He’s harping on the issue, but he can’t force it.
“They chose not to based on their actions,” McElwain said when asked about players missing games. “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you say. It’s pretty simple. And if you live by those things in your life — quite simply doing what’s right — there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to be successful.
“Look, I’m not going to put somebody in a headlock and make them do something they don’t want to do. If they choose to do it, that’s the way it is. That’s part of growing up, that’s part of building a program.”