QB Leak chooses Florida

Published: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 5, 2003 at 10:26 p.m.

The day after one of the best quarterbacks in school history announced he was leaving early for the NFL, the Florida Gators picked up an oral commitment from perhaps their quarterback of the future.

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Charlotte (N.C.) Independence High School's Chris Leak committed to UF on Sunday night at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Sun file photo

Maybe the very near future.

Chris Leak, the national high school player of the year from Charlotte, N.C., announced on live national television Sunday night that he will be signing with the Gators on the first Wednesday in February. The good news for first-year UF coach Ron Zook comes the day after junior quarterback Rex Grossman announced he was moving on to the NFL.

Leak revealed his oral commitment to UF at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on ESPN2.

"Going into the recruiting process I had three questions," Leak said. "First, where can I get a great education? Second, can I trust what I'm being told? Third, could I play for a national championship?

"I am asking all the top recruits to come and join me and win a national championship. I am trusting what I'm being told and following my heart. Today, I am officially committing to Coach Ron Zook and the University of Florida."

Leak said he decided on UF over the past week and that Grossman's departure had no impact on his decision.

"With Rex being there he would have been a great tutor for me," Leak said. "I would have learned the game under him. It would have been a great situation with him there.

"My brother told me to follow my heart and that's what I did."

Leak amassed astounding numbers in his high school career at Independence High, throwing for a national-record 185 touchdowns. This past season, he threw for 5,000 yards and 61 touchdowns and in his junior and senior seasons combined, he passed for 9,885 yards and 108 touchdowns.

Earlier on Sunday, Leak was named the winner of the Ken Hall High School Player of the Year award, formerly known as the high school Heisman.

This is the biggest high-profile commitment the Gators have received since All-American quarterback Brock Berlin announced for Florida in the fall of 1999. Leak's commitment could give Zook's second UF recruiting class a huge early boost. At least one other big-time recruit, Tampa Jefferson wide receiver Andre Caldwell, has said he liked the thought of possibly catching passes from Leak for the next four years. Caldwell caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Leak in Sunday night's all-star game.

Leak picked the Gators after also considering Florida State, Iowa, Texas and Southern Cal. Tennessee, the early leader, was dropped by Leak shortly after his older brother C.J., a junior quarterback at UT, was benched in his first start for the Vols (against Georgia) after only one series earlier in the fall.

With the departure of Grossman, Leak is expected to compete for possible immediate playing time at Florida. The top candidates to replace Grossman in the spring - sophomore Ingle Martin, junior walk-on Jeff Creveling and redshirt freshmen Gavin Dickey and Patrick Dosh - have zero starts between them and only Martin has seen previous playing time for the Gators.

The Gators also received some good news closer to home on Sunday, when junior strong safety Guss Scott informed Zook he would be returning for his senior season after contemplating entering the NFL Draft. Scott's decision stops the recent flow of UF underclassmen who have declared for the draft. Grossman and junior defensive tackle Ian Scott announced their departure over the weekend and a third junior, defensive end Clint Mitchell, is expected to announce today that he'll also enter the draft.

You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling 374-5022.

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