Kicker Eddy Pineiro didn’t mince words when asked about the departure of Jim McElwain, the former Florida coach who arrived at his front doorstep for a visit the day after Florida’s loss to Alabama in the 2015 SEC Championship Game.
For Pineiro, although he remains focused on Florida’s final three games, McElwain’s parting is a gut punch.
“It’s horrible. It sucks because, you know, I feel like I lost a best friend,” Pineiro said. “The reason why I came here was because of him. So it hurt. It hurt a lot, but, I mean, you know we’ve got to win and this program expects a lot from the players and it’s all about winning at the end of the day.”
And while Pineiro may feel like a part of him is missing without McElwain, his ability to see the big picture is a large part of why fans have embraced the junior college transfer in under two years in Gainesville.
After his missed extra point played a role in Florida’s 17-16 loss to LSU, Pineiro received nothing but support from the Florida faithful — a far cry from the allegations of death threats that have engulfed the program in recent weeks.
“My parents told me they didn’t get any negative comments, no death threats, nothing like that,” Pineiro said. “Nothing negative. All the parents came up to my dad and mom and were just super supportive like ‘We still love Eddy’, and all the fans would go up to my parents because they know who they are and they were like ‘We still love him’, this and that. We’ve got a good fanbase here.”
And the cries from Florida fans hungry for wins? Pineiro doesn’t hold their fandom against them, instead assuring the disgruntled that better times are ahead for Florida. “Nobody likes to lose so people are frustrated, and I would be frustrated if I was a fan like how they are, to this program and stuff,” Pineiro said. “I know people are frustrated, and they just need to hold on and hopefully we get a good coach that comes in and we can win some games.”
Regardless of who is at the helm next season, Pineiro may not be providing the kicks. The redshirt junior needs to complete just two classes before graduation, and the NFL is becoming more than just a possibility for the Florida kicker. Pineiro is about the big picture.
“I didn’t even know I was draft eligible,” Pineiro said. “Yeah, maybe I’ll start thinking about it.
“That’s my dream, to get my family out of the struggle, that’s what it’s all about. I left soccer, the sport that I love, to give my parents a better life through football. Whatever it takes. If I need to play tennis, I’ll play tennis. Whatever gives my family a better life.”
Who: Florida (3-5, 3-4 SEC) vs. South Carolina (6-3, 4-3)
When: 12 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850