St. Thomas Aquinas safety Jaden Davis got more than he bargained for Saturday.
While attending the Gator Grill-Out, Florida coach Dan Mullen’s invite-only recruiting event, Davis and his South Florida Express teammates were seen on Instagram live throwing up “The U”, the hand sign for the University of Miami (Fl.). A harmless joke, one that came on a dare from Hurricanes wide receiver Mike Harley Jr., but it soon made the rounds on social media.
Before Davis knew it, current Gators such as Kadarius Toney and Iverson Clement were calling on Florida to punish the four-star prospect by pulling his scholarship offer.
“That was a dare from Mike. It wasn’t anything serious, I didn’t mean anything by it. No disrespect by it,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be up here if I wasn’t interested in the school. Obviously.”
It was some unnecessary drama at an event intended to be light-hearted and devoid of any issues. Those that know Davis, however, understand he didn’t seek to embarrass Florida, himself or his teammates.
After the issue had subsided, Davis said the grill-out left a strong impression on him, and a big reason was the focus on personal relationships and putting a different spin on a recruitment event.
We would like to apologize to @GatorsFB @CoachDanMullen for Mike Harley’s recent post. He is our former teammate and we didn’t intend to disrespect Gator Nation. It was a tasteless mistake.We have the upmostrespect for the Florida Gators and the city of Gainesville.
— IV (@Jayd4_) May 20, 2018
I would like to apologize to Gator Nation and the coaching staff for this weekend’s incident. It was an immature mistake. It was a moment with a friend and by no means my intent to disrespect the Florida Gators. I have a ton of respect for the program and all of Gainesville.
— W1NG0 (@DerekWingo) May 20, 2018
“I like the fact that we were able to come up to a barbecue and just talk. We were able to talk just man to man. Just talk about stuff other than football,” Davis said. “Relationships, family, stuff like that. That was another great thing for this visit.”
With just two months until Davis plans on pledging his talents to a program, one would think his destination has started coming into focus.
Not so, said Davis. After a busy spring, one that saw him pick up offers from the likes of Georgia and Clemson while taking official visits to Penn State and Oklahoma.
“It really hasn’t cleared it up. It actually made it a lot more hectic,” Davis said. “Coaches who haven’t been hitting me up have been this spring. South Carolina, Louisville, they didn’t have the opportunity to talk to me during the season and stuff, so they’re really starting to get on me right now. It’s got a lot more exciting.”
When it comes to UF, wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales and defensive backs coach Charlton Warren have been in contact with Davis the most.
“They’ve been hitting me up once a week, just talking about non-football stuff,” Davis said. “They’re not putting pressure on me. Just letting me enjoy the process. Florida has always been one of my high options, and I’m really thinking about them.”
Yet Davis didn’t mince words when asked about which school provides the best developmental opportunity.
“Football-wise, for me, it’s Florida. You commit to a school, not to the coaches or anything,” Davis said. “I felt great about the school before coach Mullen and all of them came along.”
Considering more programs are coming into the picture, however, Davis said he may have to reassess his recruitment and commitment deadline to ensure he makes the best decision possible.
“July 18, but I don’t know. I may have to push it back,” Davis said. “That’s my birthday, so I just wanted to get everything over with by my birthday and being able to focus on the high school senior season and winning a state championship. But with everything that’s came about right now, I just don’t know. With the recent spring it’s starting to open up. Right now I’m just wide open.”
— IV (@Jayd4_) May 20, 2018