Editor’s note: This is the final installment of the “Next Up” series, which profiles the signees from Florida’s 2016 class. SEC Country traveled around the South to visit the recruits before they reported to campus.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Since he was a kid growing up in Mississippi, playing for the Florida Gators was the goal for Quincy Lenton.
If that sounds unusual, well, it is.
If you’re raised in the Magnolia State, you probably root for one of the two SEC in-state teams. And prior to the last recruiting cycle, the Gators hadn’t signed a prep prospect from Mississippi in 13 years.
Lenton, a 3-star safety from Meridian High School, stopped the streak.
“Florida was always the school I wanted to go to,” Lenton said. “It may have been far-fetched, but I aim high and dream big.”
Lenton became a Gators fan during their 2006 national championship season. At the time, Mississippi State and Ole Miss had combined records of 20-48 in the last three years. So the Bulldogs and Rebels didn’t give him much to celebrate.
“I was just drawn to Florida,” Lenton said. “I loved those championship teams they had and the swag they played with. That’s also when they started becoming DBU.”
But as Lenton’s recruiting process picked up, the Bulldogs and Gators were trending in opposite directions. He committed to Mississippi State near the end of its 10-3 season in 2014. Florida fired former coach Will Muschamp that same year.
“As soon as coach (Geoff) Collins went to Florida,” Lenton said, “that caught my attention.”
His first offer came from Collins when he served as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator. Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia, Ole Miss, Missouri and Vanderbilt all joined the race for Lenton afterward.
But playing for Collins — and the Gators — was the only option that could change his pledge.
“He gave me the Florida offer and I de-committed that same week,” Lenton said. “That was my dream school, so I had to get down there and see it.”
Lenton attended Friday Night Lights and pulled the trigger for UF at the event, citing his comfort level with the staff.
“I knew Florida was my home,” Lenton said of his decision. “That’s where I wanted to be all along.”
The 6-foot, 190-pound signee said Collins sold him on the Gators’ track record with defensive backs.
“It’s DBU,” Lenton said. “There’s a lot of opportunities to get on the field because they play so many [defensive backs]. Coach Collins told me, ‘Come in, don’t act like a freshman and you’ll play.’ That’s what I plan on doing.”
Collins will be Lenton’s position coach at UF and was excited when he officially joined the class.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Collins told Gator Vision on signing day. “We got him to come over here with us. Since he was 8 years old he wanted to be a Florida Gator. His mom was telling me stories about when he was laying on his bed at 8 years old watching Percy Harvin and the Gators play, saying, ‘I can develop and become good enough to play in The Swamp.’ And here he is.”
THE NEXT UP SERIES
- Rick Wells relishes role as Jim McElwain’s first commitment
- Murder brought Tyrie Cleveland to Texas, new lease on life returns him to Florida
- Jawaan Taylor underwent major transformation to land offer from Florida
- Brett Heggie grew up a Seminole, but the FSU legacy is Florida bound
- Florida’s Lamical Perine validated by senior season after lack of offers, respect
- Antonneous Clayton used to be an outcast because of another game he played
- Florida’s Jachai Polite, high school teammate are now SEC rivals
- Florida LB Jeremiah Moon overcame severe leg, weight problems growing up
- Florida’s Vosean Joseph motivated by Jamaican roots, Miami upbringing
- Florida’s Jeawon Taylor, unlike many recruits, committed to the school itself