Photo: Andy Jean and Billy Napier; Credit: Zach Goodall
In an attempt to reel in talented South Florida wide receiver Andy Jean, the Florida Gators formed an allegiance with a former player coached by multiple staff members who is an alumnus of Jean's high school, Miami (Fla.) Northwestern.
He received a short video from former Alabama and current Cleveland Browns pass catcher Amari Cooper — who played for the Crimson Tide when head coach Billy Napier, wide receivers coach Keary Colbert and director of speed improvement and skill development Tiger Jones were all on Nick Saban's staff in some capacity.
The gist of Cooper's message pertained to what Jones could offer Jean as he takes the next step in his career, the same way he helped Cooper as he leaped from college to the pros.
However, even without Cooper pointing the rising wideout in the direction of Jones, Jean was already intrigued by what he saw when watching him in action during his official visit weekend.
"When I went to the University of Florida for my official visit, we were in the weight room and me seeing how explosive he was and the guys he coached and guys he developed, that really opened my eyes," Jean told AllGators at Varsity Sports Network Dade County Media Day. "I'm like, 'Wow, his explosiveness is great, and he got good energy, and he's big on technique,' and pointing out stuff like that.
"Speed trainers, they're elite. Tiger, that man, he's a great coach, for sure."
The expertise of Jones and Miami Northwestern connection between Cooper and Jean seemingly resulted, or at least played a role, in exactly what Florida was hoping for: Jean's pledge.
However, the drawing factor for the guy the staff believes can produce at an elite level when he arrives spans beyond just the impressive development track of an off-field staffer.
"Florida felt great," Jean said as he reminisced about his Gainesville trips. "I went to the spring game, it was a great atmosphere. All the fans cheering, great coaching even when things are going bad, they still ain't lash out, none of that. And, when I've seen the coaches, every time I go up, they got good energy. Coaches are genuine, they don't show any fake love. Every time I come, they treat me like family."
That love began almost immediately upon Napier's arrival as the new head coach of the Gators back in December. He texted the 6-foot-1, 180-pound recruit in an attempt to begin forging a strong bond for the future — while simultaneously working on a transition class in the closing stages of 2022.
That set the pace for the connection from both sides.
Now, Napier and Jean communicate nearly every day over the phone. The conversations range from life to football to his goals for the future.
He's also connected well with wide receivers coach Colbert.
"Coach K.C., we got a good bond also. He showed me some drills he does. When I was in the meeting room with him on my official visit, he showed me some drills that I could really see myself doing that can help me develop my game. That really opened my eyes."
In an off-the-field sense, Jean highly regards what a school can offer him from an educational standpoint. While he has undoubtedly taken notice of Florida's standing as a top five public institution, even his conversations with the staff and those around the program have shown him that the education aspect of UF is top-tier.
"They not only about football, they care about your family. They care about your mental health. They care about education. I'm big on education, like, when I went there, they were talking about financial stability.
"No other schools really talked to me about financial stability and stuff like that so that really caught my eye. Life is, you got to be financially stable if you really want to get rich because when you get rich you're gonna have the money but it's about how you handle it, how you're holding it, you feel me?"
Jean's decision to shut down his recruitment with the Gators this summer — something he already had planned as he headed to campus for FNL and the cookout to end July — comes as he looks to shift his complete focus toward the gridiron for one final campaign on Friday Nights.
"I'm getting close to the season; I'm trying to have a great year. I ain't really trying to have a lot of coaches texting me out the fly. I want to stay focused on my game. The University of Florida is the place I want to be."
As a result, he pledged himself to a school earlier than some may have expected.
On pace to graduate a semester early and early enroll at Florida, Jean views his commitment status as a positive for his growth as a player and teammate in the upcoming season.
"I want to take my time to focus on my game and focus on my teammates, help my teammates instead of going in visits, missing practice and stuff like that. I want to be fully here for the season and ball out this year."
However, if the right schools call — namely Georgia, Texas A&M and Miami — he could see himself taking additional visits before his recruitment ends for good.
But, for now, Florida is firmly the place he wants to be.
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