UF running back Scarlett goes after redemption

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University of Florida lineman CeCe Jefferson (96) and running back Jordan Scarlett (25) go at it during a one-on-one drill at an open spring practice at the Sanders Practice Fields at the UF campus in Gainesville. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

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.”


UF football

What: Annual Orange & Blue Game

When: 3 p.m. April 14

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Tickets: Free admission

TV: SEC Network


13 COMMENTS

  1. Humility is a painful lesson and Jordan and the others got a big dose of it last year. It sounds like Jordan learned from this so my hope is that he takes full advantage of a second chance. Get that degree dude and have a monster season!!! Gator Nation supports you and is rooting for you!

    • Yes they did.

      I know a bit more about this stuff than most people and there were definitely a couple who were the big leaders in this fraud scheme and needed to go. They won’t be back and have moved elsewhere, thankfully. As much as it hurts to lose a talent like Calloway, it was best for him to go pro. Myself, I probably would have cleaned house and tossed them all after it happened, but that’s Coach Mullen’s decisions imo.

      That said, Scarlett and Calloway being on the field wouldn’t have won the game v.s. Michigan anyway. They may have played a bigger role in other games (LSU, A&M, USC, possibly fsu), but we’d have still probably had a 4 – 5 loss season again anyway.

      The problem with this team was the head coach, his OC, his S&C coach, and a number of others on this staff.

      The year before, i got laughed at by several when I told them Scarlett would be top back in our backfield, and that’s what happened too. Then his trouble last year. It was infuriating. No doubt, I don;t think I have seen as many players ib CFB as I have at UF who’ve gotten one year suspensions, starting with Grier.

      Scarlett may end up being the “big back” for us again, but he better stay focused because we have some really sensational, talented backs who are going to challenge him this year.

  2. ”I don’t believe the world’s a particularly beautiful place, but I do believe in redemption.” -Colum McCann
    ”Redemption is NOT perfection. The redeemed MUST REALIZE their imperfections.” -John Piper.
    So, best wishes for a ”Gator great” type season to all those returning and affected from last year’s ”imperfections.”
    Go Gators! Just Do It!

  3. Sometimes we forget that these players are still young kids and they make mistakes. Its part of the leering and growth process. All I hope is that they learn from these mistakes and then go on and have a happy and productive life. Jordan deserves another chance and we embrace him with open arms. Have a great year young man and make us proud.

    • “Young kids”? You realize that many of them are in their early or even mid 20’s right? So when exactly do we start expecting 20-year-olds to actually put that grey matter in gear and grow up?

      People usually live up to what you expect of them. You have low/zero expectations that they act like adults, and make excuses for them and you end up with a whole generation of 20-somethings that still live at home with their folks and expect everything handed to them. Oh wait, already happened…

      Mostly a joke there, but seriously, it was only a few generations ago that people were expected to act like mature, productive adults in their late teens and early 20’s, why do you want to lower the bar? Shouldn’t we raise it?

      On topic: Sounds like Scarlett learned some lesson, we’ll see if it sticks as the season progresses or not.

  4. I am glad Scarlett is back and wants to stay at UF for another year. This will give him more time to develop his skill set, which as the new OC and HC have said, requires far more than just carrying the ball. The new skills that he will learn (blocking, running out of the backfield for a quick pass, fake run plays etc.) will make him a much better player and improve his NFL draft status. Yes, he and several other team mates made a mistake in judgment – there is no such thing as free money. Hopefully he learns from this and grows and matures as a man. He owned up to his actions, and is taking his responsibility seriously. The Gator Nation supports him in this effort. Just keep up the good work, stay out of trouble, and give your very best effort – GO GATORS!!!

  5. we are all fragile, but this guy is in a situation like legarrette blount of the nfl via the taylor county area…except Blount’s issue was hitting another guy instead of theft. I doubt scarlett has the talent blount did. time will tell, but lets face it, the actions of these kids were huge in costing coach mac his job and several million bucks, the university a few million in payoffs to coach mac and his staff, plus money for new coaches, the teammates in lost draft status, the program in losing another year or two to recover, and the fans a year or two more of not being that good. So mistakes are highly leveraged in a fragile situation, and far more common than upside. I am indifferent to the words spoken, any redemption that fully restores the harm done overall is improbable, but all one can do is their best after a train wreck like this.