Florida football: 5 things to know about Gators QB Graham Mertz

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

Florida football fans will get their first glimpse at transfer Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz during Thursday night's Orange and Blue spring game at The Swamp.

Here are five things to know about Mertz, who is battling with Jack Miller for the starting quarterback job:

Mertz is a hard worker

Coaches and teammates have praised Mertz's work ethic.

"He’s in this building every single day, like 24 hours," Florida left tackle Austin Barber said. "I never see him leave. When I leave, his car is still here. When I get here, his car is here. I’m happy he’s putting the work in."

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Mertz said the hard work was necessary in order to learn a new offense under a new coach to compete for the starting job.

"This position, you got to know your stuff, and it’s half the battle is just knowing it, but the other half is applying it," Mertz said. "So, I mean, for me, I wanted to know it through and through and be able to apply it day one of spring. Yeah, there were long days, but I know it’ll be worth it.”

Mertz is looking forward to working out of the shotgun

Mertz primarily worked under center during his three seasons at Wisconsin, in which he passed for 5,405 yards with 38 TDs to 26 interceptions. At Florida, the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Mertz will get a chance to work out of the shotgun, where he thrived as a Top 60 national recruit out of Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kan.

"We were spread out, threw like 60 times a game," Mertz said.

Working under center at Wisconsin, Mertz said he learned timing, anticipation and the timing of his drops as it relates to route concepts.

"Coming here, it’s more in the gun, but you can translate that timing and anticipation, so it’s been a wild journey," Mertz said. "But I think that it’s all necessary for where we’re going to go.” 

Mertz is changing uniform numbers

Florida Gators quarterback Graham Mertz (15) passes during drills. The University of Florida Football team held  their 2023 Football Spring Practice Tuesday afternoon, April 4, 2023 at Sanders Football Practice Field at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2023 t

Mertz wore number 5 at Wisconsin and throughout his high school career but was given number 15 at Florida by head coach Billy Napier. That's the same number worn by former UF quarterbacks Anthony Richardson and Tim Tebow.

“I didn't really ask for a number," Mertz said. "Honestly, it wasn't on my mind. They just assigned me the jersey number.”

Asked whether Napier was sending a message, Mertz responded: "You can say that. But in the end, I was appreciative of the history of it and it was a cool moment because I knew it was bigger than me. But there weren't really any expectations because I'm here to just do my job.”

Mertz is not active on social media

Mertz has a Twitter account (@GrahamMertz5) but doesn't post frequently on it. His last two posts were on March 8 and March 1, when he was named a Florida Football Scholar Athlete of the Week and appeared at a food bank event in Gainesville.

As a high school recruit, Mertz said he was on social media more often to gain name recognition and build a following. That changed for Mertz when his college career began.

"You get older, and you mature, and you realize that has no impact and it's just a distraction for you," Mertz said. "If you’re spending time scrolling or listening to things and putting those thoughts in your head, you lose yourself in that process. And I think that being a quarterback at the Division I level, the best thing for you is to deep down know who you are and stand to that."

Graham Mertz plays golf

Mertz likes to play golf in his free time, though an outing a few months ago with teammates Barber and Rocco Underwood didn't go particularly well.

"I did not play well, which is probably a good thing," Mertz said. "It probably means I’ve been doing my job here. I’ve played one time since I’ve been here but Barber he got me and Rocco, they both got me. Rocco was playing well, but I was not.” 

The outing did endear Mertz to some of his new teammates.

"That’s what I love about him," Barber said. "He’s like one of the guys, one of the boys."