GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ja’Juan Seider is Florida’s new running backs coach, a job he turned down two years ago when Jim McElwain was assembling his first staff at UF.
Seider wanted to become a Gator — always has — but not then. He wasn’t concerned with his career or profession.
“My priority was being a dad,” Seider said. “Nothing is mattered at that time.”
Seider and his wife, Brandi, first noticed a lump on the neck of their son, Jaden Seider, in the summer of 2014. Tests results were inconclusive as the lump grew larger, but by December it was the size of a golf ball.
The following month, doctors did a biopsy and discovered that Jaden had cancer. He was diagnosed with Hodgkin nodular lymphoma.
“When you learn your son is diagnosed with cancer, I’ve never been around it,” Seider said. “You hear about it, but when you actually have somebody that’s close to you get affected, it changes.”
Seider was entering his third year as the running backs coach at West Virginia, his alma mater. The condition of Jaden and his eventual diagnosis kept Seider from accepting McElwain’s offer.
“He understood that,” Seider said of McElwain. “They didn’t stop trying. They waited a week and said, ‘Are you sure? Are you sure?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, coach.’
“I’m telling you, it made it hard to say no the first time, but I had two little girls I had to think about, too. So you can’t just uproot your family.”
After a six-month battle and chemotherapy treatment, Seider announced that his son beat cancer on July 30, 2015.
— JaJuan Seider (@coachseider) July 30, 2015
“He’s great,” Seider said of his son, who turned 16 last month. “He’s excited to get down here. He’s ready to move right now. For the first time, he gets to see me coaching in spring ball.”
McElwain sympathized with Seider when tried to hire him the first time. His son, Jerret, suffered a severe burn as a child after getting too close to the fireplace in McElwain’s home. He spent a week in the ICU, 10 weeks in the burn unit and three more months recovering.
“Obviously, knowing that, it is family first,” McElwain said of Seider’s ordeal. “That’s how we run this program, so I totally understood that first time around more than most people do, having gone through something with my own son. I told him when we got that next opportunity, ‘I’m not going to stop calling you.’
“I’m finally glad to get (him) here. … Finally got back and got him where he belongs. Another guy that obviously has a lot of ties with former Gators. His knowledge of the game and what he can bring to the running back position is something that is well thought of throughout the country.”
Seider, a native of Belle Glade, Fla., and a strong recruiter in South Florida, said he’s always had an affinity for UF. He was recruited in high school by Steve Spurrier and three of his teammates played for the Gators — Reidel Anthony, Fred Taylor and Johnny Rutledge.
With his son healthy, Seider couldn’t pass up another opportunity to join McElwain’s staff.
“It feels surreal,” Seider said. “The thing that made it OK to come is the way they kept after me. They kept recruiting me with the guys on the staff and I felt like the time was right to come now and be part of this great university.”
“I made the decision (before) and I think Mac understood that. If he didn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here right now. It was a mutual deal where he respected me as a family man, and that’s why I want to work for the guy.”