It was Wednesday, it was rainy and there were a lot of famous people in town. The red carpet to Florida Pro Day always has more A-listers when the team they are going to see won a bunch of games.
That’s a subtle part of the recruiting game these days, see which schools get Super Bowl champion coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots to be on the SEC Network’s coverage of men in shorts.
For Florida coach Dan Mullen, this was another important day (don’t they all seem important?) because he had some guys running around on the field who looked like pros.
“They helped me a lot,” said projected NFL first-round pick Jawaan Taylor. “We studied in the film room, learning more about the game, becoming a student of the game.
“And Coach (Nick) Savage changed my body.”
It’s kind of a cycle, one that places like Alabama and Clemson have perfected. You get good players, you win, you get better players, you win, those players buy houses for their moms with their NFL paychecks, you win.
You win, and people notice.
This, said Jachai Polite, would have been a different scene instead of mini-cams wrestling for space to shoot over the heads of NFL scouts.
“The reason all these people are here is because we won,” Polite said. “If we had been 4-7 again, it wouldn’t have happened like this. It wouldn’t be like this.
“Teams don’t like losing players on their teams.”
There’s another benefit of a crowded Pro Day — the current players see what’s happening.
“It helps these guys watching,” Mullen said. “It makes it easier to buy in. Look at what these guys did in one year. What can I do in two or three?”
Wednesday was another step, as necessary as Friday Night Lights and morning runs. Mullen and his players are still riding the high of 10 wins and the Peach Bowl, but it’s more than artificial euphoria.
And this is a long way to go to get to the point of this column.
There are so many things Mullen has done to get this program headed in the right direction. It’s not there yet, but it’s pointed the right way.
He brought the Gator Nation under the tent, played cheerleader when necessary and ran just enough trick plays to satisfy the base.
And don’t get me wrong, all of those things, all of those minute details and major recruiting meals, all of them matter a lot.
But I believe the most important thing he did was convince his players he knows what he is doing.
Not every coach has that ability. Some win because they just have better players than everybody else. Some get out of their own way.
But the really great coaches get their players to believe they have a path to victory and if you will just listen and do what I say we can win this game.
It happened for Florida against Vanderbilt, down 18 points and sinking fast, that they started believing. Coaches love to talk about the “buy-in”, but there are all kinds.
You can buy into the weight program and nutrition and being the first one at practice and sprints. But the biggest buy-in is believing that your coaches are good at their jobs.
When the play comes in, you have to believe it will work, not wonder why he’s calling a draw on 3rd-and-15. You have to sell-out in the blitz because you know it’s going to work.
I’m not sure if it’s an acquired skill. But it’s a skill to get young men to put their careers in your hands.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.