Once a Michigan pledge, Reese leading UF vs. hometown team

David Reese
Florida linebacker David Reese has ties to Michigan. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

It’s been 30 years since the Florida Gators have opened the season away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. But for UF sophomore linebacker David Reese, the Sept. 2 showdown with Michigan will feel like a homecoming of sorts.

Reese, who grew up in Farmington, Michigan, a town just 30 miles from Ann Arbor, has always had Michigan on his mind. From growing up a fan of the Wolverines, to later committing to the maize and blue, Reese has always held a fondness for his hometown team.

But don’t get it misconstrued — coming to Florida, and facing Michigan, is a dream come true for Reese.

“I was committed to Michigan growing up. Michigan is my hometown, just 15 minutes away,” Reese said. “But I’m happy I came to Florida, it’s the best decision of my life.”

As for the battle itself, Reese knows it has the potential to define Florida’s season, for better or worse. And as much as the Gators claim they’re focused on the preparation at hand, it would be nearly impossible to not await a game of such magnitude.

“Of course everybody wants to see that match-up, everybody’s anticipating it,” Reese said. “We’re going to have a whole bunch of supporters there in Dallas, a lot of family there. It’s going to be a big game for me, I can’t wait.”

A three-star prospect, Reese arrived in Gainesville in 2016 with few expectations for his freshman season. With upperclassmen Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis leading the linebacker corps, Reese hoped to spend the year learning and earning any playing time possible.

What he didn’t imagine was finding himself in a starting role in the latter half of the season, or seeing action in all but one of UF’s games, but injuries to Anzalone and Davis thrust Reese into a scenario that forced him to thrive or falter.

As a result, the 6-foot-1, 235-pounder heads into his sophomore campaign as one of several leaders on a youth-laden Gators defense.

“He’s kind of that guy that’s kind of the nuts and bolts of where we’re at on defense. He really plays the way he’s supposed to. He’s been doing a great job of communicating,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said of Reese. “I just think this guy is solidified and really helps us be a good defense. You see some of the plays he made last year when guys, when he hit them, they kind of went backward. That’s kind of a good thing. He’s a natural football player.”

Reese, like the entirety of Florida’s roster, is looking to take the next step this season. Unsatisfied with just a third consecutive trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, he wants to accomplish what so many recent UF linebackers have been unable to achieve: winning the SEC. But first, Reese would just like the program to get the respect its recent accomplishments merit.

“I don’t really know why we get no respect, but it’s fine,” Reese said. “Even though we went back-to-back in Atlanta, it’s fine for people to not believe, as long as we know in our heart that we’re the Florida Gators and they’re not. We’re just going to come out to prove it, week by week.”