During the uncertainty of his suspension and his season away from the game, Florida running back Jordan Scarlett seriously considered moving on and entering the NFL draft this spring.
But something inside told him he needed to stay.
His urge to return and atone for his wrong overwhelmed any thoughts he had about professional football.
He’d let his teammates down once. He wasn’t going to do it again.
“I just felt like I had a lot of unfinished business here, and I owe my team a lot from last year, so I decided to come back, give them everything I’ve got,” Scarlett said after Friday’s practice. “I said it would be better if I go finish school, graduate and get to have one more season with my guys.
“They’ll get 110 percent out of me. And go Gators because I’ll be fighting to the end.”
Had last season played out like Scarlett had planned, maybe he would be getting himself ready for the draft right now.
Heading into last season’s opener, the consensus was that Scarlett likely was on the brink of having a breakout season after establishing himself as the starter in the second half of the 2016 season.
But that season never happened.
Early in the week of the Michigan game, the stunning news broke that Scarlett and wide receiver Rick Wells had been suspended indefinitely for possible credit card fraud, joining seven other teammates who had been suspended earlier in the summer for the same reason.
The Scarlett news hit hard, especially with the timing of it.
“Yeah, it shocked me,” he said. “But things happen.”
It not only shocked his teammates, it also seemed to deflate them.
“I let them down,” Scarlett said. “Going into that Michigan week I got pulled out and I know it shocked a lot of the guys because we had a lot in the game plan that revolved around me. I feel like, yeah, I have a lot to prove to those guys. I’m going to help them out this year.”
One of the most difficult aspects of Scarlett’s suspension was that he had no idea how long it would last, or if it would even ever end.
So, he kept working out, kept waiting, kept spending his Saturdays in front of the television watching his teammates struggle through a 4-7 season that would lead to the dismissal of Jim McElwain and the coaching staff.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back any week, so I was working out constantly, staying on top of things, on top of my workouts,” he said. “I was prepared just for the whole season. I worked out every day and sometimes twice a day because I didn’t have much to do. I was staying prepared if I got that call to come back.”
The waiting and uncertainty never ended last fall. Week after week, it was more of the same for Scarlett.
Even after Scarlett and six of the others received pre-trial intervention in late October that would see the charges against them dropped if they met the requirements of the intervention, the indefinite suspension continued.
Scarlett and three others — Wells, linebacker Ventrell Miller and lineback James Houston — did not learn until late January that they had been cleared by the university and new coach Dan Mullen to return to the team.
“It was very difficult, a tough time for me considering how much I care about and love football,” Scarlett said. “It was a time for me to sit back and reflect on life. It was a big learning lesson, also.
“I just learned that I can’t take the game for granted. I realized in that whole time I was obviously taking it for granted when I made that mistake. I will never do it again.
“In the beginning it was really stressful because I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen and how the consequences were going to play out. Thankfully, God blessed me and has me standing here today.”
Heading into last season, Scarlett set a personal a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards. He’ll have the same goal this season, but it might be tougher to attain because he’s been out of the game for a season and the UF backfield appears deeper and more talented than when he left.
“That is a goal for me, but I’m also trying to do whatever it takes to get my team to advance to the SEC Championship and hopefully national championship,” he said.
This spring Scarlett is competing for the starting role with Lamical Perine, Adarius Lemons and true freshmen Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement.
Scarlett said he’s not sure what the playing rotation at running back will be in the fall.
“We have a lot of guys who can run the ball well that are physically capable of making guys miss,” he said. “We’ve got Malik Davis coming back, so it’s going to be a great season.
“I don’t know these coaches too well. I don’t know how they do their game prep and how they do their reps. But I’ve bought into the system and I’m willing to do whatever the coaches want.”
Scarlett is happy to be back, and grateful he’s been given a second chance.
“I made a mistake and I’m just trying to work to be a better person,” he said. “I’m just going to go out and give the best I’ve got, show people what I could have done last year. That’s all I have.”
What: Annual Orange & Blue Game
When: 3 p.m. April 14
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Tickets: Free admission
TV: SEC Network