QB says goodbye to Gators

Published: Tuesday, January 7, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 11:07 p.m.

He has an agent, he's already lined up former NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg to be his mentor and he has a new cell phone, which just happened to start ringing during his farewell news conference Monday.

Life has changed dramatically and in a rush for Rex Grossman.

In just a matter of days, he's gone from carefree college quarterback to aspiring pro. And football has suddenly been transformed from a game to big business.

The ringing cell phone in his right pocket certainly reminded Grossman he's not a college football player anymore; he's a businessman ready to start pursuing a living.

"It's slowly starting to sink in right now," Grossman said. "I don't have that cocoon, the University of Florida, around me anymore. I'm on my own now.

"I have to take it in stride and work as hard as I've ever worked to get myself physically and mentally ready for the draft and going into mini-camp."

With one year of eligibility remaining, Grossman doesn't have to step out into the real world, yet. But he's ready, he said. The time is right.

Despite all the talk in recent weeks that Grossman was torn by his decision whether to stay or go, he said Monday he knew all along what he really wanted to do. "I pretty much knew in the back of my mind," he said.

Last Friday morning, two days after playing in what would be his last game at Florida against Michigan in the Outback Bowl, Grossman woke up and knew it was time to inform UF coach Ron Zook that he'd be leaving early for the NFL. In the end, his decision wasn't all that difficult.

"It was the biggest decision of my life to date," Grossman said. "I didn't want to delay it anymore. I came to the conclusion it would be helpful for everyone to get it out in the open and move on and get ready for the NFL.

"I woke up Friday morning and knew I had the opportunity to go to the NFL and be a decently high (draft) pick. I didn't want to pass that up and went ahead and made my decision."

Grossman said Zook, a couple of other coaches and some of his teammates tried to talk him into staying at UF. "But everyone else - family members, friends back home, relatives - pretty much told me to leave," he said.

In talking with NFL scouts and general managers, Grossman said he's been told he'll likely be drafted anywhere from late in the first round to the end of the third.

"It will be interesting to see what happens," he said.

Between now and then, Grossman said he'll get some coaching from DeBerg in Tampa, plus work out in Gainesville for UF strength and conditioning coordinator Rob Glass. He'll also spend a great deal of time throwing passes to former Gator wide receiver Taylor Jacobs, a possible first-round selection in the draft.

"I'm going to work with Steve DeBerg," Grossman said. "He's going to work with me and help my mechanics."

Grossman is leaving UF on what appear to be excellent terms.

Despite a difficult final season, one that saw him struggle at times with Ed Zaunbrecher's offense, Grossman said the 2002 season made him a better quarterback and he benefited from a year under Zaunbrecher and Zook.

"I have no regrets about coming back (for the 2002 season) at all," said Grossman, who considered entering the draft last year after Steve Spurrier's sudden resignation. "I've learned a lot from Coach Zaunbrecher and Coach Zook. I'm a better quarterback. I learned a whole new scheme and a different way to attack a defense.

"(During the early struggles) I just felt we were getting in some situations that were unlucky, where it was everyone's first year together and things weren't going as smoothly as they should have. There's no reason to blame anyone for any one thing. I know if I came back next year, offensively we'd be good.''

Grossman said Zaunbrecher's offense was not a factor in his decision to leave. When asked what role the final, dubious call in the Outback Bowl (an end-around reverse pass that was intercepted) played in his departure, Grossman said: "Zero."

Grossman predicted the Florida offense will be much more proficient next season after a full year in Zaunbrecher's scheme.

"They're going to have a great offense," he said. "The quarterbacks know the offense, everyone is running the routes where Coach Zaunbrecher wants them run, the running backs will be better and the offensive line is coming back."

But the quarterback is not.

With Grossman gone, the starting quarterback role will be battled for in the spring by four inexperienced players - sophomore Ingle Martin, redshirt freshmen Gavin Dickey and Patrick Dosh and junior walk-on Jeff Creveling.

Incoming freshman Chris Leak likely will get in the mix in the fall. The national high school player of the year, Leak committed to the Gators on national television Sunday night at halftime of the Army All-American Game in San Antonio. Grossman said he watched Leak in the first quarter of the game.

"All I know is he put up some ridiculous numbers in high school," Grossman said. "He's going to have a lot of hype coming in here. How he handles that is crucial.

"He can do some great things here. So can Gavin Dickey and Ingle Martin and Patrick Dosh. Who knows who's going to come out (as the starter)? If (Leak) picks up the offense quickly, anything can happen. The competition will make Gavin Dickey, Ingle Martin and Patrick Dosh better. Whoever emerges will be the best quarterback."

Grossman passed along some advice for whoever the new UF quarterback becomes.

"Just know what you can do and stay confident. Don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do," he said. "And don't listen to too many people. When they tell you're great, don't believe it. When they tell you you suck, don't believe that, either."

You can reach Robbie Andreu by e-mail at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.

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