By Roy Fuoco, GateHouse Florida
LAKELAND — Call it, Gatornaughts II: The Sequel.
There’s not as many Dreadnaughts headed to the University of Florida to play for head coach Dan Mullen as from the original group in 2007. But just before noon Wednesday, Lakeland’s Deyavie Hammond, Lloyd Summerall and Keon Zipperer announced their intentions before a national audience on ESPN2 during a broadcast from the football team’s film room.
The term “Gatornaughts” was coined 12 years ago when Chris Rainey, Mike and Maurkice Pouncey, Ahmad Black, Paul Wilson, Steve Wilks and John Brown all signed with the Gators when Urban Meyer was head coach. More recently in 2017, wide receiver James Robinson signed with Florida but his career ended because of a heart issue.
Zipperer said he and Summerall were a package deal and didn’t know until Monday that Hammond had also chosen Florida.
The signings moved UF from No. 22 to No. 15 in the 247Sports team rankings, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Hammond was the first to announce his intentions. The 6-foot-4, 330-pound offensive tackle returned to Lakeland after spending his junior year at IMG Academy in Bradenton. He has been a top college prospect since his sophomore year.
Although he was considering Florida State, Hammond made his decision after making his official visit to Florida during the weekend.
“I was bouncing the question around until I took my visit just to see how the program was, how the education was, the coaches, just get to a more personal level than a football level,” he said. “It was definitely a big eye-opener.”
Having two high school teammates go with him is a bonus.
“It definitely makes it nice,” said Hammond, who plans to major in psychology. “It’s fun to be playing with your old teammates, continuing the legacy of the Gatornaughts. It’s a big tradition.”
Hammond, ranked as the No. 102nd overall recruit in the country by ESPN and the No. 2 guard, is the highest rated among the seven offensive linemen signed by the Gators during the early period.
Summerall, a 6-foot-7, 210-pound defensive end, moved to Lakeland from Auburndale in August. He said the Gators plan to use him as a pass-rushing defensive end or outside linebacker.
“When I first went down there, it was all love,” Summerall said. “I felt like it was home and not too far away from my family to come and see me. That meant a lot to me.”
Summerall, ranked No. 128 overall by ESPN and No. 13 at defensive end, was considering Nebraska because Scott Frost began recruiting him when Frost still was at Central Florida. In the end, Nebraska was too far away.
Zipperer wore Miami gear at Monday night’s state championship celebration but said he was just trying to keep fans guessing. He has been wearing gear from both schools during the recruiting process, but in the end chose the Gators.
“They’ve been recruiting me the hardest,” he said. “They did a good job recruiting me.”
Zipperer, who caught 13 passes for 264 yards and four touchdowns as a senior, was rated the 63rd best prospect in the nation by ESPN for all positions and the No. 1 tight end. He has been recruited since his sophomore season.“I’m glad it’s over,” Zipperer said. “It’s been a long process. It was fun at the beginning but it got aggravating toward the end.”Roy Fuoco can be reached at email@example.com or at 863-802-7526. Follow him on Twitter: @RoyFuoco