They have been together so long, friends working side by side and raising families at the same time that they now consider themselves brothers.
Dan Mullen, John Hevesy and Billy Gonzales.
The three have been coaching together, on the same side of the ball, since 2001. Their shared career path started at Bowling Green and has taken them to Utah, Florida, Mississippi State and now back to Florida again.
The bond is strong.
“It’s a brotherly love,” said Hevesy, the Gators’ offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator. “There are times we’re going to fight like brothers. There are times we all agree.
“All our kids were all born together, so it’s three families that are … we’re like brothers with it. We’ll fight like brothers, we’ll laugh like brothers and we’ll do all that. So it’s a good thing to have.”
Hevesy, Gonzales and Mullen have many shared memories from all the years together. Some of the most special were created here, in Gainesville, under Urban Meyer, where the three coaches had children and helped the Gators win two national titles with players like Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, the Pouncey twins and so many others.
That’s why when Mullen took the head coaching job late last November there was little doubt about whether Hevesy and Gonzales would be following him to Gainesville. When Mullen made the offers to Gonzales and Hevesy to join his new staff, there was no hesitation.
“He called and said, ‘Get ready to rock and roll,’ and it was, ‘Let’s get ready to go.’ ” said Gonzales, UF’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. “Normally, you have to ask your wife and your family, but this was one of these deals where it’s, ‘Let’s go’. Between the two children and my wife, everybody was jacked and excited about getting back here.
“My daughter was born here in Gainesville, so she’s excited. When we first found out we were coming back, she came running down the steps (doing the Gator chomp). She’s 12. She said, ‘Dad, I’m going home, I’m going home.’ I laughed and said, ‘You don’t even remember any of it.’ ”
The only time Gonzales has not coached with Mullen and Hevesy was the year after Mullen left UF and the three years Gonzales coached at Illinois and LSU.
Gonzales hooked up with Hevesy and Mullen again when he joined the MSU staff in 2013.
Hevesy left Gainesville with Mullen when Mullen accepted the head coaching job at MSU after the 2008 national championship season. Hevesy said he went with Mullen to take on new challenges.
Those challenges were met in Starkville over a successful nine-year run.
Hevesy faced a tough career decision when he left Gainesville. It was an easy one deciding to come back.
“When he approached me with the opportunity to come back here, it was absolutely, ‘Yes,’ ” Hevesy said. “Because the tradition of the University of Florida, the university, the academics, the football, the athletic department, everything that’s associated with the University of Florida is top notch.
“It was one of those no brainers to come back here. It’s great to be back at the University of Florida, to be putting that Gator shirt on and that Gator logo on. It’s a great feeling for me and my family. I guess that’s my opening statement, take your questions now.”
Hevesy and Gonzales know what they’re stepping into because they’ve been here before. They know the tradition. They know the high expectations. They know that the three of them — Gonzales, Hevesy and Mullen — have been brought back to restore the offense and win games, win championships.
Hevesy and Gonzales are embracing the opportunity — and that challenges that come with it.
“I hope fans are expecting us to win,” Gonzales said. “That’s our objective. We understand what’s expected at Florida. It’s a great place. It’s one of the premiere programs in America. You’re not coming here to be a state champion. You’re not coming here to be a district or a division champion.
“You’re coming to Florida to do this (holds up index finger). When you do this, I’m getting chills thinking about it, you raise that finger and there’s nobody else in the country that can do it on that day, at that moment, and you can. That’s the true feeling of being able to accomplish everything that you’ve dreamed about. That can be done here. Our job is to try to get it done as quick as possible.”
Hevesy said the three brothers, along with the rest of the coaching staff, are all on the same page, focused on the same goals.
“You can’t ask for anything better because we all know what the ultimate goal is,” he said. “We know what we’ve got to do.”
The No. 1 job facing Hevesy, Gonzales and Mullen is a big one, one that Jim McElwain and his staff failed to accomplish — bring back a potent offense to Florida, something that started leaving town the year after Mullen departed for MSU and Tebow graduated.
Their roles on offense are already well-defined by their years working together.
Hevesy will coordinate the running game.
Gonzales will coordinate the passing game.
Mullen will coordinate the overall offense and call the plays.
“You can say it’s three-headed, but I’ll say that you can throw Larry (Scott) in. You can throw Brian (Johnson) in there. You can throw (Greg) Knox in there,” Gonzales said. “We’re all going to work together. We’re all going to be working in piecing this thing together. That’s how we’ve always done it since we’ve been together.
“The system’s always worked that way and will continue to work that way. Dan does an unbelievable job. He’s, in my opinion, the best play-caller in the nation. But at the same time, we’ve all got responsibilities helping put the game plan down and get ready.”
Hevesy said there will be times when there will be disagreements between himself, Gonzales and Mullen. But the three will work them out, because that’s what brothers do. They will find a common ground.
“Working together for so long, we kind of know how we’re doing things,” Hevesy said. “So it’s easier when you say, ‘Here are these runs, here are these passes, let’s work together. What do we like in the red zone? What are we seeing?’
“There’s a great trust factor when those comments are made or what we should do. We trust each other in what’s being said.”