By Ainslie Lee/Correspondent
DUNNELLON – AJ Hamilton and Jay Fraziars finished up their senior year as teammates just weeks ago. The two Dunnellon Tigers can look forward to going head-to-head with one another at the college level.
Hamilton, who signed with the University of South Florida, and Fraziars, who signed with the University of Florida, each made their pledges to their respective universities official on Wednesday morning from Dunnellon High School’s library.
For wide receiver Jay Fraziars, though he called his recruiting process “long and hard”, he had been verbally committed to the Gators since Dec. 1, 2018. And over a year later, he inked his Letter of Intent – sealing the deal.
“I’ve been a Gator for a while,” Fraziars said. “It just finally feels good to sign that dotted line.”
Joining Florida on Fraziars’ short list was LSU and Penn State, but ultimately, his family’s proximity to Gainesville is what won the 6-foot-4 wide receiver over.
“It’s just so close to home,” Fraziars said. “You know, I got family. And I don’t wanna put them on a plane every weekend.”
Meanwhile, sitting just a couple yards away was Fraziars’ teammate, AJ Hamilton.
For Hamilton, the recruiting process wasn’t as straightforward.
Though Hamilton had been verbally committed to the Bulls since June of this year, when USF dismissed head coach Charlie Strong two weeks ago, Hamilton reopened his recruitment.
“It kinda made me rethink because I didn’t know who was going to be it and I didn’t know if I was going to get along with the new coach or how it was going to be,” Hamilton said.
Since then, the Bulls have hired former Clemson assistant, Jeff Scott. And after taking an official visit to Tampa, the Dunnellon defensive back came home convinced.
“I believe and trust in Coach Scott,” Hamilton said. “When I talked to Coach Scott, he showed me so much love and he kept it so real with me and showed me that he truly wants me on his team. So I felt welcome.”
And while Hamilton’s mind was made up, it didn’t stop him and his family from losing sleep the night before.
“I couldn’t really sleep,” Hamilton laughed. “I couldn’t sleep. Just thinking, like… man, I’m really fixing to do this… like, I’m really fixing to sign to go to the next level and play what I love. All of us were just sitting in the house talking about it. It’s a dream come true, really.”
And while the two Tigers are parting ways now, in 2022, they will have an opportunity to step on the field together again – though this time, they will be wearing different colored jerseys.
The Gators and the Bulls are slated to face off in Gainesville on Sept. 17, 2022. And while that might be years from now, Fraziars and Hamilton have already put thought into it.
“I look forward to playing against him (Hamilton) in the next level,” Fraziars said. “I’m going to miss him on the field. It’s not going to be the same with him on a different team.”
As for Hamilton, he thinks playing against each other will bring nostalgia into their college years.
“The same as since we were younger,” Hamilton predicts. “Going at it 24/7. I know whatever side he on, that’s the side I’m on… just battling at each other and pulling the best out of each other.”