Timmy Jernigan’s wild ride to Texas


SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Sitting miles above the ground with nothing but excitement and joy filling his senses, Timmy Jernigan’s journey to the U.S. Army All-American game took a terrifying turn.

A newbie to the world of air transportation, the Lake City Columbia defensive tackle was just getting comfortable in the sky when his flight out to Texas was halted 20 minutes after takeoff.

Jernigan’s pilot came over the intercom with a message stating the plane was going to have to return to Jacksonville. With no panic in the pilot’s voice, Jernigan shook it off. He attempted to get back to a comfortable position and wait out the delay.

Then, panic set in.

The pilot’s voice returned, this time instructing the flight attendants to prepare the exits. Sitting a few rows from an exit, it was at that moment the 6-foot-2, 275-pound lineman went from calm to scared.

“Rough wasn’t even the word. I was scared,” Jernigan said. “There aren’t too many things out there that scare me, but that thing right there. I always had a fear getting on airplanes and the first couple times I got on one I was like, ‘That ain’t too bad, I kinda like flying.’

“I think I might just hop in the car with my dad after that.”

Fortunately, Jernigan’s flight safely landed back at Jacksonville International Airport. Jernigan and the rest of the passengers were later informed that there was an issue with the left engine.

Jernigan, who was originally supposed to land in San Antonio at 11:40 Sunday morning, was forced to take a later flight. During his wait, Jernigan toyed with the idea of calling his father for a ride back home, nervous to step on another plane.

However, Jernigan gained his composure, filled his brain with positive thoughts and hoped on a flight that brought him to Texas at 8 p.m. Sunday.

“I prayed about it and I was like, ‘I want to go to the game and I want to play in this game, but I don’t know if I want to play in it that bad,’ ” he said. “But I prayed about it and I felt comfortable with it, and I knew God had my back so I went ahead and got on.”

Now, safely on the ground for a few days, Jernigan said he’s having a great time. Jernigan said he’s gotten to not only create new friendships, but he’s been able to meet and learn from many of the men and women representing the U.S. Army patrolling the players’ hotel.

“I got a lot more respect for the Army after I see what they go though and what they sacrifice for us,” Jernigan said. “They don’t even know everybody in America and they still go out there fighting, and sacrificing themselves for us.”

The things in and around the Army game have been fun for Jernigan, but what hasn’t been too thrilling is the latest news in college football. The four-star defensive tackle said feels like he’s starting his recruitment from the beginning because of all the coaching changes at the schools he’s interested in.

Right now, Jernigan said he has three finalists — Florida State, LSU and Alabama. A life-long Gator fan, Jernigan said Florida is still a school he’s considering. However, each one of those schools troubles him in the coaching department.

Jernigan has been worried by rumors of LSU coach Les Miles taking the job at Michigan. Alabama’s defensive line coach Bo Davis just left for Texas. And the only coach remaining from the original staff who recruited Jernigan at FSU is defensive line coach Odell Haggins.

Then there’s the resignation of Florida coach Urban Meyer and defensive line coach Dan McCarney taking the North Texas job.

“The way college football is, it’s been crazy,” Jernigan said. “There’s a lot of changes going on.”

Jernigan said the biggest thing for him in recruiting is trus, and right now FSU is providing the most.

Jernigan said he has yet to officially set up any January visits, but would like to visit Tennessee, a team he’s gained a little interest in over the last few months. He had an official to Alabama set for the 21st, but with Davis gone, he’s not sure if he’ll end up taking it.

With how close Florida and FSU are, Jernigan won’t officially visit those schools.

As for Florida, Jernigan isn’t ready to completely eliminate his childhood favorite. His next objective is to speak with and meet new coach Will Muschamp and new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who won’t arrive in Gainesville until after the Seattle Seahawks’ season is over.

Jernigan is leaving a crack for the Gators to slip through, but he’ll have to develop some sort of relationship with the staff if there’s a chance of a commitment there.

“Everybody knows I was very high on Florida,” he said. “I talked to Coach Meyer and we had a close relationship. Coach McCarney, we had a good relationship and also the assistant d-line coach a couple years back, Coach (Sean) Cronin, he left, so I was like, ‘the three dudes I had the closest relationship with (are) gone.’ That’s really been a big factor to me. I just want to go somewhere it’s stable and they’re going to be there for a long time.”

Wherever that school is, Jernigan said he won’t know until right before National Signing Day on Feb. 2. With only a few weeks to decide, Jernigan plans on taking this down to the very last second.

“It’s going to have to be on Signing Day,” he said. “I have no choice.”


  1. Hes always been a gators fan so maybe he should get some really good advice. Go with your heart, you choose a university for the school. Not for the coaches. Yes I know these kids build a relationship with the staff and that is to be expected. However the coaches come and go but the School will always be there

  2. Well put, Gator! I was thinking the same thing. Who’s teaching you and helping you are important, but ultimately the school is the most important aspect of it. I think once he meets Florida’s new coaches, he’ll be happy here. But if he’s not willing to work his butt off on every play, then let him go his own way.

  3. the dan quinn hire can only help. he comes in as a dline specialist! know he has a nice group here already, so loseing timmy isnt the biggest deal, we gotta a few good players in last years class[flyod,easley]BUT….. 5star DT,s dont grow on trees. if he grew up a gator, lets hope his childhood dreams come true, and we get to see him wearing orange and blue one day

  4. Foley and Machen have put their money where their mouth is. Elite coaching staff in place.

    Let the boys make their decisions.

    I like our odds from recruiting, preporation and execution on the field. Lets not leave out mid game adjustments…

    Go Gators!

  5. Think about that situation, Tim. Logically, which coaches will be at a program for the longest duration? Probably the ones who were most recently hired.

    Also, the reason Odell Haggins is STILL at FSU is because NO ONE else wants him–FSU’s defenses have been atrocious (ranked 40th). Granted he’s a fantastic salesman/recruiter, but in reality (& key indicator) GOOD coaches will always go on to get better jobs at bigger schools. Not sure why any big time player would want to go outside of the SEC anyway–the SEC has played for the LAST FIVE national championships..

  6. Corey, Be realistic man. There will be no 7-5 season at FSU or Florida next year. Both teams will be good. I just dont see us blowing FSU out and Jernigan is already thinking about which coaches will get him to the league. If the tie breaker between the schools he wants to attend is continuity of coaches, FSU has the lead on Jernigan and other recruits. UF will have a better class next year when the coaches have had a year to gel and recruits nationally see how they work together.
    Just being logical!

  7. Wow, FSU gets a big win over the worst UF team in 22 – 23 years, probably the most poorly-coached Gator team, I’ve watched in my 40 years of watching Gator football, and suddenly FSU “is back”? During the nolies’ run of mediocrity in the past 5 – 6 years, they’ve had a couple of “top 5” classes, they have a big coaching change, and yet they stayed mediocre. Their season this year was based on beating their two main rivals UF and Miami being who were in total shambles and a USC team without Marcus Lattimore. I’ve heard the “we’re back” comparisons from up here in Tally for years and when I see them play consistently for a couple of years in a row, perhaps I’ll be impressed. This year’s FSU still got blown out by top 10 OU, routed by a VT team that loast to James Madison, lost to two other unranked teams, and nearly lost to threee other unranks. My jury is still out on FSU.

  8. How logical is it to play for a school (FSU) who has only produced TWO 1st rounders in the past 3 years (on EITHER side of the ball)?? If he wants to get to ‘The League’, better play on the big stage in the SEC. The ACC is pathetic–that is a FACT. To be the best, you want to play against the BEST. SEC–hands down.

  9. Logical One

    Dont blow Corey off so quick. Have you seen FSUs schedule next year? Two of their OOC games are Oklahoma and @ Florida. They could easily lose 2 or 3 conference games. They arent very deep and one or two key injuries would have them at 7-5 or 8-4 at best in my opinion. Floridas schedule is brutal also. So dont count us out at another 7-5 season either. We will have new schemes to break in and play Alabama, @LSU and @ Auburn in consecutive weeks. We also go @ South Carolina. Thats four games we could easily lose right there.

  10. I can’t see FSU going 6-6 in the ACC given the weakness of the conference.
    I am starting to get a negative impression of this guy since he seems to be a bit of a drama queen. If this is the case, go to FSU, they are much more accomodating in this area.

  11. hay timmy just keep ur head up you do not know me but i am friends with mark one of your team mates and we were talking about you and the college you might go to see me i am trying to come to lake city and play football with you all and stay and spend more time with my grand parents so good luck and i hope you find the way just look up to god and friends

  12. Stop with all this FSU crap. How many points did VT rack up on those clowns? They have a darn good D but the offense is sub par. Get a good Offense like we have (although it wasn’t displayed much this past year) and they will be back to the same crappy ways. And BTW I can’t stand reading the garbage you people are writing about that crappy school

    And Timmy if you are reading this you need to pick the school. Longevity is a thing of the past even with College Coaches.

    Go Gators!

  13. I can’t stand these kids that think they’re God’s gift to football and every school should come to them begging on their knees for them to go there. If you really grew up loving Florida so much, the thought of going to FSU would just be disgusting to you. In fact, if your life didn’t revolve around football, the thought of going to FSU would just be disgusting to you. Not to mention, if you cared about anything other than football, you’d pick the school, not its current coaches.

    If you think you’re such a surefire NFL prospect then it shouldn’t matter which team you play for. If you think you’re so great that any team should feel honored to have you, and you’re trying to pick which school to grace with your spectacular presence, then please go somewhere else. We don’t need you or anyone else like you. I am SO tired of hearing about this kid and his “oh I like UF, I’m just not sure they’re good enough for me anymore”. If that’s the way you feel then get lost. No one will miss you.

  14. BOB, don’t count Jerigan out of the fold yet, There’s still a lot of recruiting to go on. LT, you;re right about UF’s SOS next season. UT, @ UK, Bama, @ LSU, @ AU, UGA, and then FSU, our schedule should once again be the nation’s #1 toughest.

  15. BEEP, most of it today has a lot to do with playing time. I agree with the other poster that FSU has not put but 2 first-rounders in the NFL the past 3 years, and Tim should look at UF’s coaching staff now which is LOADED with NFL coaches. Can you imagine Jernigan playing along side Hunter, Loyd, Easley, Martin, and Powell? WOW!

  16. And to Tim Jernigan, just remember the recruiting games that get played on sites like this (all of them actually). There’ll be people who show up saying they’re for the home team but don;t want you here. Many of them are the rivals who want you at their schools. Play your cards right and straight, and hopefull, the Gators are your stop for the next 3 – 4 years. Go Gators!

  17. @Beep – Easy for you and I to say such things – half my family went to UF, growing up it was just in our blood. But, you and I are not the #1 or #2 ranked defensive tackle in the whole country. His decision will be the biggest he has made in his life, up to this point. Relationships with the people who will help guide and mold your future when your 17 years old are big deal…………. Take your time Big Dog, you’ll know when its time.

  18. I agree with the post that says if you’re such a life time GATOR what is the problem. Foley has gone out and gotten probable the best coaching staff assembled in the last 5 years and we still have wavering. You don’t really speak of UF as one of your favorites. I say, and by the way I’m a big GATOR fan, if FSU and LSU look as good to you as FLORIDA does don’t hesitate pick one of them and see who has the National Championship in the next two years. I know it can’t be the academics that you are looking at because we are hands down a better institution. Not just Timmy, any of the heavyweights that are left out there that we still have on the board, if we get the ones that say they are coming to FL. and with the ones we already have we know next year will be a banner year as far as recruiting goes. We had one lousy season and these I’ve been a gator all my life, jump ship when you should be the first one to want to HELP right the ship. Go to one of those other choices you had and watch us with the National championship when you are still struggling try to win the ACC.

  19. I talked to one of timmy’s friends and he said tat he’d been recruiting Jernigan to FSU(just a friendly recruiting pitch IMO) and he said that he has a feeling Timmy picks UF in the end. Just FWIW

  20. Are you guys just flat-out delusional? EJ Manuel has won two bowl games as a BACKUP! He is going to be a Heisman contender the next two years, and our defense will only get better. I swear, some of you Gator fans really do live in 24/7 fairy tale land. It reflects very poorly on your great university. But deal with it: you had Tebow and now Tebow is gone. Otherwise, Meyer would have stayed.

    Also, you can say, “Worst team in blah blah blah years,” but that is the cheapest out I’ve read in a while. That team is stocked, but yet you looked awful out there. Quit your excuses. You sucked this year. We sucked for an entire decade. I’ve owned that–it’s time for you to own post-Tebow.

  21. @Jack —
    Not sure, contextually, what in this article or who in the comments you’re addressing regarding being “flat-out delusional” and “in 24/7 fairy tale land” (unless you were self-talking in front of your mirror), but in response to your concluding exhortation,…
    … We have (owned the post-Tebow Meyer era).
    … Now it’s over.
    … New sheriff in town.
    (8:41am, ET)

  22. Jack keeps showing up here wanting to rant and rave on his new found love Jimbo. While I have aknowledged him to be a decent coach, his time at fspuke is limited. He will NEVER go to a NC game and will not even be there in 3-5 yrs. I honestly believe Jack is a newbie fair weathered fan that someone invited over to watch a game at their house and he liked the fake indian throwing the spear. They have maybe sold out 2 games in 5 yrs. Maybe Jack found some tickets blowing down the street that another fair weathered fan threw away and he went to a game and now is a fan because they let him in for free. I really dont know. But I do know we wont hear a peep out of him in 3 yrs. I hear mommy calling jackie….

  23. One of ther problems with college football everywhere has been the players that are great, superior players in high school and then get on a college squad where everyone else has their talent level or better. And they expect to be pampered because they have graced a university with their presence. To paraphrase JFK “Ask not what a football team can do for you, ask what you can do for the team and university.” Or just be one of those 4 and 5 star recruits who are seniors who never played much. Attitude should be part of the star package, We neede unselfish players. Those players really help themselves too as they are more teachable and get better!!

  24. Quickened:

    I probably got too long with the rant. I’m just sick of reading delusional posts from Gators in the blogosphere–it’s not so much what I read here. We had Weinke, and then Weinke left. You had Timmy, and Timmy has left. Time to move on. Both universities are great.


  25. Dennis, My fear with Weis is that he has shown that his offense works MUCH better in the NFL than in college. College defenses play that offense much better. I have concerns that the offense will not work well verses ZONE defenses in college (See Notre Dame under Weis). Again, counting FSU out when they are loading up just like it had been in recent years at Florida is a big mistake. FSU plays in a weaker conference and they will only keep loading up on recruits as they continue to post 10 win seasons in the weak ACC.