Polite hopes his high energy inspires Gator teammates to follow suit

12
1949
Florida defensive linemen Jabari Zuniga (92) and Jachai Polite (99) line up for a play Saturday against Charleston Southern on Florida Field. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

From day one, and every day and every speaking engagement since then, Florida coach Dan Mullen has been stressing relentless effort to any and all who will listen.

Study with relentless effort. Prepare with relentless effort. Play with relentless effort.

Every. Single. Play.

He wants the UF program to be defined by relentless effort in everything the Gators do.

Now that that’s been well established, and seemingly embraced by the players, there is a new face of Florida football to match the mantra.

His name is Jachai Polite.

The junior from Daytona Beach is the hustling, hitting, raging definition of relentless effort, according to his coaches and teammates.

“You can ask some of our o-linemen about him. He’s a wreck,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “His energy level, you guys have seen it before. He’s like an energy ball.

“The running back may be 10 yards down the field and he’ll sprint, go tackle him. So, he’s an energy ball.”

The energy ball was on full display last September in the Tennessee game. Polite made a hustle highlight play that went viral on social media.

Early in the fourth quarter, he came quick and hard off the edge, getting deep into the UT backfield. The Vols threw a quick screen to speedy running back John Kelly, who took off down the sideline.

Polite turned after the ball was thrown and started to chase Kelly, who was eight to 10 yards in front of him. Relentless in his pursuit, Polite somehow managed to get in front of Kelly and bring him down 30 yards downfield.

He said that might be the furthest he’s chased down a play, but he’s not sure.

“I never count how far I go, I just go until he stops,” Polite said.

Playing with relentless effort is nothing new to Polite. He’s done it in practice and in games since he arrived at Florida in 2016. And it started well before then, and years before Mullen started demanding it nine months ago.

“I’m not going to lie, I used to slack a little bit,” he said. “But over the years I’ve learned that hustling creates opportunities. A lot of people don’t want to be the one to hustle, so I’m going to do it. Make more plays.”

That attitude seems to be rubbing off on his defensive teammates.

“I take a lot of pride in it. It gets my teammates going, too,” he said. “They all go faster now. They don’t want me to make the play. Be the first one there, so it’s all good at the end. It’s better collectively.”

Franks said Polite sets a good example of relentless effort wherever he’s at. It never stops, whether it’s in games, on the practice field or in the weight room and offseason conditioning program.

“He’s a really good player, one of the best d-linemen I’ve seen,” Franks said. “That’s a testament to how hard he works in the weight room, when we are out there running sprints, stuff like that. He’s a really hard worker.”

Said defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson: “He plays like he practices. His motor is high and he doesn’t let anything go past him.”

Polite seems to be playing faster than ever now that he’s back at his more natural position — rush end. Last season, at a little more than 270 pounds, Polite was moved inside to tackle in some situations.

Knowing he was going back to a full-time defensive end this season, Polite lost 25 pounds in Nick Savage’s strength and conditioning program in the offseason.

“Savage got me right,” he said. “I’m down to 13 percent body fat, 11, somewhere in there. It’s just been a miracle with Savage.”

His teammates are predicting a big season for the quicker, faster Polite.

“One of the best d-ends in the SEC right now,” Gardner-Johnson said. “As the season goes on, one of the best in the country.

“He’s got the size of Von Miller, Khalil Mack. He can do everything. He can drop in coverage, he can blitz, he can continue.”

He can do everything. And everything he does, he does it with relentless effort.

What inspires that?

“My family is who I do it for,” said the new face of Florida football. “That’s my why. That’s why I go so hard.”


Up next

Who: Kentucky (1-0) vs. No. 25 Florida (1-0)

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Tickets: Visit FloridaGators.com. Fans may also call the Gator Ticket Office at 375-4683 or visit it on the west side of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

12 COMMENTS

      • Reese. I don’t think strings, other than maybe the QB position, mean much to Dan Mullen. Polite was listed as first string and Moon started in his place vs. Charleston Southern. I think who starts at all positions other than QB is the player who performs best and most consistently throughout each week in practice and during the previous game.

  1. Gator-6 … sorry, I haven’t made a post over the last couple of days…But had to have a stent inserted into my heart because of a Clogged artery…a 2 day procedure…amazing what they can do these days…but, I did see the game Saturday…and doing well and resting…The game went pretty much as I suspected, score wise…I honestly thought they would play Franks until midway through the third quarter and then Trask would be put in …I thought Trask played OK …a little tentative, especially after his first snap sailed over his head…which could break any ones confidence… but you have to give him credit, because he made several plays and got them back in FG range, which they made… He did put up 13 points in the third quarter…and is a capable runner… actually, not too bad for his first appearance in a game… McCoy is still having the same problem he had last year,with his snaps, which, was a disappointment…but, he will be regulated to second team as we move into conference games…I for one thought the OC line graded out fairly well…they all were holding their blocks for at least 3 seconds which is all they are asked to do…it’s almost impossible to hold a block more than 3 seconds in college or the pro’s…so over all they did a fairly good job…and they should have…they were bigger and stronger than CS…Franks was not sacked and pressured very little…I think most could see the improvement in Franks that I’ve talked about in other comments…I’m hopeful he will continue progressing in each game and he will only get better each game…This was the first game you could actually see the confidence in his game…He’s getting rid of the ball quicker and not back peddling as much in the pocket and giving away the play…He has improved drastically from last year…For the most part you have to grade this game on the first half when the first and second teams were in the game… The second half were mostly third and forth teamers with a scattered few of 2 teamers…on both offense and defense…But, lets give them credit…CS only scored 6 points on them, although CS was able to run the ball much more effectively in the second half…The running backs in the first half started out a little slow and had few carries…all had at least one run for at least 15 yds or more…they avg. 7.1 yd/carry…and that doesn’t include Pierces performance in the second half…My guy is M Davis this is one special kid…all of these running backs are special….this is going to be a great year for the gators….unlike Dooley I’m giving the Special Teams an “A” still scratching my head on that one…2 Blocked Kicks, 6 XPs, 3FGs, 2pts from a blocked EP…most of the kick offs were touch backs and when they did run one back never got to the 20 yard line…this was certainly one of the best special teams effort we’ve seem in 8 years…shame on you Pat…I just glad they scored more points than he predicted 38-16 or other wise his grades would have been C across the board… Pat, try to spend more time studying the gators rather than telling us what songs to list too.

    • Thanks Cody….and boy, do I ever feel like an a’hole for whining about where you were. Glad to hear you’re doing well now, the stent will do its job and you’ll be fine — just follow the dietary changes and take your meds on schedule!

      Glad to hear also your take on the OL….that’s more comforting for sure. What do you think of Dameon Pierce in particular?

    • Part 2 Cody I was timing the time from the snap to the release. For Franks last year he rarely got that kind of time. Mac throwing a RSF in there with no coaching was why he looked so bad. I had doubts if he had the football mind to process things quickly enough to be successful. Whatever magic dust (aka better coaching) Mullen has is night and day better than Mac. Great assessment and get well soon so we have your posts to read.

  2. Jachai Polite is a great example to other players. He came in a little under the radar in recruiting rankings but has worked hard to become one of our best DE’s. He also seems like a great kid away from football. I don’t recall any off field issues with him. He reminds me a lot of Jarrad Davis.