O-line pledge Halapio working to fit UF's style


Published: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 12:06 p.m.

Being big and nasty just isn’t Jon Halapio’s style.

He’s got the big part down – standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at 301 pounds.

Nasty? Not so much.

It’s something the offensive lineman and UF commitment from St. Petersburg, Fla., Catholic High will have to get used to when he arrives in Gainesville for the Summer A session May 1.

For the past couple of seasons, UF’s offensive line has been among of the most physical units in the country. In 2007 the Gators ranked 23rd nationally in rushing yards, averaging 200.2 yards a game and were tied for fifth giving up only 13 sacks on the season. The Gators improved to 10th nationally in rushing (231.1 yards per game) in 2008 and gave up 14 sacks (13th nationally).

As dominating as UF’s line has been on the field, off the field there’s a distinct difference in personalities.

“It’s weird at first,” Halapio said of meeting members of the Gators’ line. “They’re big and intimidating and then you get to meet them and they’re just like regular people.”

Halapio, a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, said he considers himself to be much like UF’s lineman. He’s a tough, physical grinder on the football field, but when he steps off he’s nothing but smiles and laughs. He even hugs opposing players before and after games.

If there’s one person who can reach inside and dig out the nasty side of Halapio, however, it’s UF’s former offensive line coach, now offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.

The fiery coach is the only member of the Gators coaching staff to have one of his sayings plastered to the wall for players to see every day. Addazio’s written words might be influential, but it’s not as motivating as hearing him on the field, Halapio said. His profanity-filled pep talks are what give his players that extra thick skin, and while it’s highly motivating at times it can get a bit frightening.

“It was pretty scary at first,” Halapio said. “Now, I understand why the offensive line at Florida is the best in the nation. It’s because of that guy right there.”

It was Addazio’s attitude that initially sold Halapio on UF. Addazio’s personality reminded Halapio so much of his current high school offensive line coach that he says he was “immediately” comfortable when he first visited with Addazio.

When Addazio’s name was linked to the Syracuse and Boston College head coaching jobs, Halapio was a bit distressed. He was so nervous that it took an in-home visit by Addazio to calm his nerves a bit. Then when Addazio was named offensive coordinator, Halapio threw away all his doubt and ended any rethinking of his commitment to Florida.

“I’m not going to lie, I was kind of worried,” he said. “I’m glad he’s staying.”

With his commitment as solid as ever and recruiting out of the way, Halapio said he has been working on his speed and agility. UF’s line, while not lacking size, is one of the most athletic in the country, and to compete for any sort of playing time, Halapio said he has to get his body moving faster.

To ensure that, he’s been working out with the skill players at St. Pete Catholic High. Sprints and intense core workouts have become part of Halapio’s daily regimen. His goal is to get his 40-yard dash time down from 5.1 seconds to 4.9 before he moves north.

Halapio said he doesn’t expect the increase in speed to be too difficult to achieve with all the talent around pushing him through each workout, but he’s still not sure if he’ll develop any sort of mean streak between now and May.

“I’m not sure if I’m as mean and nasty as (UF’s line),” he said, “but I’m going to try and get there.”

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