FOOTBALL

Rick Wells' improved performance a result of his dedication, Mullen says

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida receiver Rick Wells makes a catch Saturday against FAU at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

There was a period of time when Florida coach Dan Mullen wondered whether or not seldom-used wide receiver Rick Wells could ultimately contribute on the field for the Gators. 

“When I got here, early on I had questions whether he would make it,” Mullen said, “and then I said 'Hey, eventually you got to buy into the program’.” 

If Saturday’s performance wasn’t evidence enough, Mullen didn’t have to wait long to witness Wells’ investment; conversely, the sixth-year senior may have been doing most of the waiting for it to pay dividends. 

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The Jacksonville native led the Gators in receiving for the second-consecutive contest, tallying a team-high 36 yards on five receptions against the Owls defense while hauling in the first touchdown catch of his career. 

“He bought all into the program, and I saw a change in him, and then all of a sudden he got stuck kind of behind some guys, even though he bought in,” Mullen said of Wells. “But it never deterred him, and he just kept battling and kept working, kept his head down, kept grinding, and now he's reaping the reward of all that hard work." 

A former standout at Raines High School before he signed with Florida, Wells entered the season having hauled in 15 receptions for 153 yards across 29 games with the Gators. 

He was producing in spurts, yes, but Wells couldn’t manage to carve out a consistent role for himself in UF’s pass-catching rotation. 

With the introduction of the NCAA’s transfer portal, combined with the options he would have as a graduate transfer, Wells could have departed UF long ago for a larger role elsewhere. 

Though his story at Florida has yet to be finished, Wells already has embodied tenacity, and the same head coach who admittedly once questioned his longevity is now referring to Wells as paragon of persistence. 

“Rick just shows the perseverance,” Mullen said. “He's a guy that’s worked his tail off.”

And that’s just of which the public knows. 

The teammates who have seen him strive for success have also witnessed the pitfalls and problems the outside world isn’t privy to. 

As Saturday indicated, Wells’ coaches and teammates alike are as invested in his success as he is. 

“Giving him his first touchdown, when I threw it and he scored, he came back and told me ‘Thank you.’ And I said ‘You know I’ve got you’,” quarterback Emory Jones said. “I know what he’s been through in his time here. He’s been through a lot off the field — stuff that not a lot of people know about.”