Grossman leaving for the NFL
Published: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 12:12 a.m.
Less than a year after turning down the lure of the NFL to help launch the Ron Zook era at Florida, junior quarterback Rex Grossman has decided it's time to move on now.
Grossman has informed Zook that he'll be entering the NFL Draft in the spring, ending the career of one of the most productive offensive players in the history of Florida football.
"It was a very difficult decision for me because I love being a Gator and the whole program has been so good to me," Grossman said. "I would like to thank Coach Zook, Coach (Steve) Spurrier and Jeremy Foley for the opportunity they have given me. I would also like to thank the fans and all my teammates for all of their support. Once a Gator always a Gator."
Zook said the decision didn't surprise him.
"I had a feeling this would be his decision," Zook said Saturday. "Obviously, he's doing what he thinks is best for him and his family and we certainly respect that decision and wish him luck.
"Rex is a great competitor and a winner. I love the kid, and I always will."
Based on information he's received from NFL scouts and general managers, Grossman is expected to be taken anywhere from early in the second round to late in the third.
"Most people in this league think he's a second-round pick," said Spurrier, Grossman's former coach at UF, who is now the head coach with the Washington Redskins.
Another UF underclassman - junior defensive end Clint Mitchell - also is expected to declare for the draft. Although he has another meeting scheduled with Zook on Monday, Mitchell has told several of his teammates that he's leaving. Yet another junior - strong safety Guss Scott - also is considering entering the draft, although he has not yet made a decision.
Grossman had been laboring over his decision for more than a month and finally decided it was time to move on to the NFL two days after the Gators' 38-30 loss to Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Grossman threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns in that game, but missed a chance to help UF pull out a victory when offensive coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher called an end-around reverse pass by Vernell Brown that was intercepted with 54 seconds remaining.
That play probably was a fitting end to Grossman's junior season, a season that saw him struggle with a new offensive system and fall from the Heisman race early in the year after poor performances in back-to-back losses to Ole Miss and LSU. Grossman was the Heisman runner-up to Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch after the 2001 season and was considered a favorite to win the award in 2002.
But Grossman, known for his deep passing accuracy, never seemed to gain the same kind of comfort level in Zaunbrecher's offense that he enjoyed in Spurrier's, even though he finished with a strong second half of the season.
Zook said Grossman did not give him a reason behind his decision to leave for the NFL.
"I didn't ask him for a reason, and he didn't have to give me one," Zook said. "He made his decision based on what's best for him, and we're happy for him."
Grossman had a solid junior season statistically, throwing for 3,402 yards and 22 touchdowns. He finishes his UF career with 9,164 yards passing and 77 touchdowns. Only two UF quarterbacks - Shane Matthews and Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel - had more career passing yardage than Grossman. His 77 touchdown passes put him second on UF's all-time list behind Wuerffel (114). Grossman holds the single-game school record for passing yards with 464 (against LSU last season).
Coming out of Bloomington South High School in Bloomington, Ind., Grossman actually recruited Florida, taking a visit to Gainesville the summer before his junior season and showing tape of himself to Spurrier. Grossman also watched tape of Spurrier's offense and committed to the Gators a short time later.
After redshirting his freshman season in 1999, Grossman took over as the starter in the fifth game of the 2000 season and led the Gators to the SEC title.
Grossman's departure means the starting quarterback job will be wide open in the spring between four young, untested players - sophomore Ingle Martin, redshirt freshmen Gavin Dickey and Patrick Dosh and junior walk-on Jeff Creveling.
Martin saw only very limited playing time at quarterback this season, but led the Gators to a touchdown on one of his two possessions in the win over Auburn and will have a slight edge in experience over the other quarterback candidates.
"We'll be all right," Zook said. "We've got some talented young quarterbacks, and it's going to be exciting.
"Sometimes when you're a quarterback and you know you're not going to play, you don't work quite as hard even though you think you are. The competition in the spring is going to be excellent."
UF also already has a commitment from one of the top high school quarterbacks in the state - Justin Midgett from Punta Gorda Charlotte. UF also is in the running for high school All-American Chris Leak from Charlotte, N.C. Leak will announce his college choice tonight and the Gators are considered one of the favorites. USC, Iowa, Florida State and North Carolina also are in the running for Leak, whose announcement will come at halftime of tonight's U.S. Army All-American Bowl on ESPN2.
You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at email@example.com or by calling 374-5022.
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