Amari Burney had the date circled on his calendar for months.
The No. 40-ranked prospect in the 2018 class by ESPN, Burney chose June 1st to announce his commitment to honor his late grandfather, Eugene Burney, who died during during his sophomore season.
The Clearwater native committed Thursday to the Gators over Ohio State and Virginia Tech, but his decision to join coach Jim McElwain and UF’s 2018 class was far from a predetermined conclusion.
“It was Tuesday night when I came to a decision,” Burney said of his verbal commitment to Florida. “Me and my parents called Coach Mac and told him I was coming to Florida.
“He was just overjoyed. He was speechless, it sounded like he was thinking what to say but he was very, very happy.”
With no shortage of options as the No. 11 defensive back by 247Sports, Burney said he’d been wrestling with coming to a decision for “about two months”.
But when it came down to it, Burney couldn’t forget the first meeting with McElwain.
— Amari Burney (@amari_burney) June 1, 2017
The Miami Hurricanes were the first program to offer the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, but it was McElwain who was the first head coach to sit down with the Burney family.
“The first time they met coach Mac was when Florida offered me, that was the first head coach to offer and it was real respect after that,” Burney said. “So my parents loved him from the jump, and they just thought that he was going to be the best to take care of me for these next 3-4 years.”
And if McElwain’s initial impression wasn’t enough to sway the Burney’s, seeing offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier prioritize their son’s commitment was the icing on the cake.
“Everyday, he would keep in touch with me,” Burney said. “You know, every time I visited he would want to see me and want me to see coach Mac. He kept in touch with me the most, that really stood out about coach Nuss.”
When it comes to attending camps and universities for the remainder of his recruitment, Burney said he’ll talk it over with his family when the time comes.
“It’s up to my parents, really,” Burney said, “but I should be up there sometime soon in summer.”
And he’s still undecided on whether or not he’ll take all five – or any – of his official visits in Fall.
“My dad said don’t take them, so I really don’t know but I also got to talk about it,” Burney said. “I honestly would just so I can see different places, not to decommit or something. Just want to go up there and see.”
In the interim, however, Burney is ready to help Florida bring more top prospects into the fold.
Calvary’s Amari Burney talks about his decision to commit to Florida. pic.twitter.com/lM1ZVwqCxk
— Bob Putnam (@BobbyHomeTeam) June 1, 2017
“This is the time where I’ll be recruiting,” Burney said. “I was very relieved just to get (my recruitment) out of the way. Now it’s just getting ready for the season this summer, spending the offseason working hard.”
Because working hard while staying out of trouble has been Burney’s entire life, and it’s why McElwain and Nussmeier fought hard for him to become a Gator.
“Everyday I’m a hard worker, on and off the field,” Burney said. “I’ve never been in trouble in my life, never got a referral or a suspension. They’re getting someone who will work hard no matter what.”