Katie Turner, Bri Wade in vital recruiting roles on Billy Napier's Florida football staff
When Florida football coach Billy Napier was in the early stages of constructing his “army” of support staff, two names high on his list of candidates he intended to bring to Gainesville were Katie Turner and Briazja “Bri” Wade.
Both Turner, the assistant athletic director of recruiting strategy, and Wade, UF’s director of on-campus recruiting and football events, had worked with Napier at previous stops, and Napier now had the chance to bring them to Florida.
He didn’t hesitate, and neither did Turner or Wade. In the four months since arriving at UF, the duo have been often front and center of the Gators' recruiting efforts, whether they’re making the rounds on the sideline during spring practice to visit with recruits and their respective families, talking with UF players and staff or hitting social media.
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Two women, each in a vital role in an environment typically overflowing with men. The importance of what they’re doing in that regard isn’t lost on the pair.
“We’re still trying to really break barriers and firmly assume our place in the industry,” Wade said. “I think it’s very important to lift as you rise. As you’re rising, you need to be lifting another woman up with you. There’s so many opportunities for us in this business. Women are just as adequate as men, especially in football.”
Not the only women on the staff
They’re hardly alone at Florida when it comes to women with significant responsibility within the football program.
A day after announcing Wade’s hire, the program announced the hiring of Kelsee Gomes as director of sports nutrition and Rachel Adamkowski as football performance dietitian.
Since Gomes and Adamkowski, who worked together at North Carolina, arrived in Gainesville, UF players have noted an improvement in the food.
“110 percent (better),” said fifth-year safety Trey Dean. “Everybody has their own meal plan catered to them.”
Savannah Bailey joined the UF staff as senior director of player relations after spending five seasons at Clemson in a community service-related role. She is leading the efforts of GatorMade, which UF describes as “a holistic player-focused and purpose-driven initiative that develops each Gators football team member during their tenure at Florida and beyond."
The Gators also reached into the professional level — and a different sport — and hired Tamsyn Stonebarger away from the Los Angeles Clippers to become UF’s associate director of digital strategy.
Learning from mentors
Turner and Wade, combined with UF’s coaching staff, have helped foster a family atmosphere since arriving in Gainesville.
“Me and Katie, we’re just genuine people. We’re 'people' people. I’m a people person. She’s a people person. I think having a relationship with your current team, it goes beyond the coaching staff. The support staff has to have a great relationship with our players as well,” Wade said. “That goes into the culture that we’re trying to build here. You can’t have the family environment if the only people that have relationships with the players are just the coaching staff. The support staff needs to have those relationships as well.”
Napier may have hired Turner and Wade, but the two wouldn’t be here — or in the business — if it weren’t for their exemplars.
At Mississippi State, Wade saw one of her mentors rise in recruiting.
“There are a lot of incredible women that came from there,” Wade said. “Andrea Hollis, she was kind of a big-sister mentor to me ... She was actually a student as well when I first got started my freshman year, and then she eventually got the role as director of on-campus recruiting at Mississippi State. She’s still there doing incredible things, but just having her as a big sister to kind of help mentor me was absolutely great.”
Turner, a student at Alabama from 2013 to 2016 while Napier was with the program, watched as Candice Rosenkranz helped lead the Crimson Tide’s recruiting efforts.
“I didn't know that a job like this was possible until I saw a female in my position who had it at Alabama, and she's still one of my mentors to this day,” Turner said of Rosenkranz. “I saw her doing it and I just thought that is such a cool job, because I love people, I love football, and the fact that you can combine those two and really help build something special with the football program; it just seems like a dream come true. But I don't know if I would have necessarily envisioned that for myself if I hadn't seen a female in that role.”
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A chance to team up with Wade, who replaced Turner at Louisiana in 2020 when Turner left to be the Georgia Bulldogs’ director of recruiting operations, in Gainesville was another dream that came true.
Though Turner first had to break the news to her boss, Kirby Smart.
“When Coach Napier called me,” Turner said, “and was like, ‘I would love for you to come join,’ I was so anxious. Because now I have to make a decision ..."
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With Turner and Wade in Gainesville, along with Adamkowski, Bailey and Gomes, UF is hoping their expertise and work ethic will lead to what Turner helped build at Georgia — a national championship program.
“Telling Kirby was tough. I cried for sure. I have no shame in admitting that, because it's emotional," Turner said. "I've known Billy since I was in college and I've known Kirby since I was in college, and I love both of them so much that it was just so hard. But I just really think this was my next mission.
"I was like, 'I'm sorry, this is an emotional decision.' He's laughing and it was just funny. ... That's my guy. I texted him after the national championship and they're sending me a ring."