Soooo, um, my friends are really ga-ga right now. They don’t want to call it “love” yet, but he’s all they can talk about.
He’s soooo funny. Does impressions. And he seems to know how to say the right thing at the right moment. I know he’s coming out of a long-term relationship, but he is so into this one. Totally.
You know he is just what they needed. They were tired of being talked down to and ignored. They want to be happy, but there are different levels of happiness. They want to feel like they are special.
Like it’s a two-way street and he doesn’t just want to hang around with his friends all the time.
Of course, it’s early in this relationship. He hasn’t forgotten anyone’s birthday or, you know, like, lost a game.
Dan Mullen is, of course, 0-0 as the Florida head football coach even as he piles up wins. Wins in recruiting, wins in perception, wins in the fan base.
The Gator Nation has taken to him because he has taken to them unlike any coach since Steve Spurrier did when he walked in the door figuratively waving orange and blue pom-poms.
And his “can-do and I need you to do it” approach is just what Florida fans were pining for.
As Mullen made a quick tour of the state this week — appearances that were open to all Gator fans without cost — you wouldn’t think this is a fan base coming off an embarrassing season based on the sizes of the crowds.
Perhaps it is because they are learning something about their new coach, that he isn’t a carpetbagger or today’s new flavor or working only for the guy who signs his paycheck.
He’s one of them.
He’s working for them.
That’s why there seems to be a bit of a pep to the step of UF football fans and athletes being recruited by UF as well as the people who work in the University Athletic Association offices.
It hasn’t been this fun to go to work in a long time.
This is not meant to bash former coaches at Florida. Everyone has their own style, their own set of rules (however archaic) and their own personalities.
And, as we mentioned, it’s easier to be smitten with a head coach who has yet to lose a game.
They can’t trust him to the marrow yet, because he hasn’t put his work on display in games that matter. Nobody knows what the future holds for Mullen. It’s just nice to know that his gaze is fixed in only that direction.
There is no looking back, no complaining about what has been done wrong in the past. Just this — how can it be better?
Florida and athletic director Scott Stricklin made a smart decision in moving Mullen’s tour up to February instead of late spring (strike while the iron is hot) and opening them up to anyone wearing Orange and Blue.
Because they — Gators fans, players and coaches — need to be all in this together and never has that been more important.
Perhaps that is why it feels like this is the most cohesive the Gator Nation has been since Spurrier had his famous New Year’s Eve news conference to accept the job in 1989.
Think about the first years of the coaches who followed.
• Ron Zook had no chance to be universally accepted. He was succeeding the legend and told us repeatedly in his first presser that he was not Steve Spurrier. Nay, nay. That’s not what anyone wanted to hear.
• Nobody knew for sure what to think of Urban Meyer. He had no SEC experience and no ties to the program. One of the first things he did was kick the team out of the locker room. And he was hardly outgoing. Obviously, the Gator Nation grew to love the championships before the nasty breakup.
• Will Muschamp is as good a guy as you’ll ever be around, but not a popular hire outside of all of his Oak Hall buddies. He walked into a giant mess of entitlement and had to clean it up with an industrial-sized mop. He brought in restrictive-access rules and wasn’t until he went 4-8 that he opened some practices.
• And then came Jim McElwain, who almost seemed to have a disdain for the most vocal parts of the fan base and circled the wagons almost immediately.
Mullen gets the Gators because he has been one. He gets how to be an SEC head coach because he has been one. He gets how important it is to include the fans in the process by opening some practices and answering their questions because, well, it’s the right thing to do.
As we all are very aware, it always comes down to winning. The guy who says he’d take 8-4 with an entertaining offense is the same guy leaving anonymous posts in November wondering if Florida hired the right guy.
And we’re a long way from the wins and losses that go on a head coach’s permanent record.
But at least it feels like momentum has shifted.
It feels like one nation again.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.