Safety gives UF 14th verbal
Published: Friday, July 15, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 15, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.
Growing up with second cousin and former Gator star Brandon Spikes gave Rhaheim Ledbetter a deep connection to the Florida football team.
Friday morning, the Shelby, N.C., Crest safety followed in his cousin's footsteps and gave UF it's 14th verbal commitment to the Class of 2012.
"I fell in love with the place when I got down there," he said of a Junior Day visit in February. "I've always dreamed of being a Gator.
"I had the Gators in mind the whole time. They were going to be in my top five (college choices) anyway, but when I took that visit and saw the place, it's crazy. That's why I'm a Gator."
Ledbetter grew up with Spikes and went to the same high school as the ex-Gator middle linebacker, who now plays for the New England Patriots.
"We're real close," Ledbetter said. "I know he's happy for me. He never pressured me. He just told me that they were going to work me down at Florida and give me a chance to play in the NFL.
Ledbetter, 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds, is rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports and was given three stars by Rivals and Scout.
He visited campus with Crest teammate Jonathan Bullard, a five-star defensive tackle, who is also seriously considering the Gators.
"Me and Bullard, we see each other as brothers," Ledbetter said. "We have always wanted to play together, but his options are still in the air."
Some have thought Ledbetter and Bullard to be a package deal, but those situations don't often play out the way close friends originally intend. Now that he's gotten his own decision out of the way, however, Ledbetter says he will be recruiting for the orange and blue.
"I'm going to be talking, trying to get into Jonathan Bullard's ear a lot," he said. "And a lot more, like (Melbourne, Fla., safety) Marcus Maye. Just try to be a big-time recruiter for the upcoming class."
Ledbetter, who says he hasn't made up his mind about taking official visits this fall, is a strong safety who says he looks to deliver hits.
"Coach (Will) Muschamp likes the physicality I bring," he said. "(The coaches) were saying they were going to need a hard-hitting safety, a physical safety to get in there and play for them, and that's what they're going to get."
Ledbetter's high school coach, Mark Lawrence, agrees.
"He's as physical a football player as I've ever coached, and I'm talking about any player," Lawrence said. "He's a good tackler. He runs well. He's strong. His effort level is always high. He's a great preparer.
"We talk about how it's a physical sport, a contact sport, a collision sport, but he actually likes that part of it. You don't have to encourage him."