In their second Nick Savage summer, the Florida Gators put in the work again, stressing and straining, running and lifting, pushing themselves to their physical and mental limits.
But it hasn’t been all work. There’s been plenty of play, too.
Among other things, the players have gone to movies and paintballing together, had cookouts and competed in friendly cannonball contests at the homes of position coaches, and spent a lot of free time just hanging out and chilling together.
“A lot of things together,” senior tight end Lucas Krull said. “We’ll have get-togethers at each other’s houses, have film study, just relaxing, having a good time, going to the swimming pool or a coach’s house to have dinner.
“We always end up hanging around with one another. It’s just us being friends, being brothers.”
Dan Mullen will be glad to hear this, because he’s a football coach who believes that team bonding off the field is just as important as on.
“I like all the team stuff, team activities,” Mullen said. “While they’re here at the facility and work their tail off and do what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to improve, we’re going to be solid.
“The positive stuff is when they leave the facility and they go and hang out and have a team cookout or guys’ll be like, ‘Hey, we’re having all the guys over for a team cookout, pool party today.’ Those are the things to me that show they enjoy being around each other on the field and off the field, just shows the closeness of the team and that’s what I like to hear.”
The Gators apparently won the team activities portion of their offseason, because they were together off the field a lot, doing a lot of different things.
For instance, the wide receivers apparently were inseparable, and that’s one of the most competitive position groups on the team, one that appears to be overflowing with talent, where opportunities may be hard to find for some once the season begins.
“We’ve hung out day in and day out,” senior wide receiver Josh Hammond said. “Whether we’re going to the movies, going bowling. … just hanging out and spending time with each other.”
It’s been pretty much been the same summer scenario for the running backs, the offensive linemen and every other position group. The players have been doing stuff together off the field, having fun and strengthening bonds and growing team chemistry.
“Whether it be on the field or off, you have to build relationships with your guys,” quarterback Feleipe Franks said. “Whether you’re in training camp together or having a barbecue at someone’s house, you want to build relationships with people.
“That’s what’s important when you come to college and play a sport like this. You want to build relationships. We did a bunch of football stuff. We enjoyed going out there and throwing on our off days and building chemistry, going into the film room and watching our opponents, always trying to get better at the game.”
Mullen has stressed the importance of doing things together off the field to build friendships and bring the team closer together. Based on this offseason, the players apparently have bought in.
“Going out a lot together,” senior running back Lamical Perine said. “Paintballing, just handing out, building chemistry like we’re supposed to to be a good team.
“If you want to win a lot of games, you have to have chemistry.”
The Gators definitely have it, according to Hammond.
“We are really, really close,” Hammond said. “This is probably the closest team I’ve been on since I’ve been here, 2016. Everybody is cool with each other.
“I have everybody’s number in my phone. Guys feel free to reach out to me if they ever need anything and I feel free to reach to other guys. We’re definitely close. We’re brothers. We’re going to continue to work together and get better.”
Mullen said the fun aspect of the summer for the players — hanging out, doing things together — is just as important as the strength and conditioning portion under Savage.
“You see successful teams. When the team’s together, they do group activities,” Mullen said. “Team bonding and how they get along together and their desire to want to hang out with each other is huge.”