When Dan Mullen was relieved of his duties as the head coach of the Florida Gators football team, several recruits from the class of 2023 backed off their pledges to the program.
Before Billy Napier even arrived in Gainesville, the class had thinned to just one player, four-star athlete Aaron Gates. The Trinity Christian School (Ga.) product committed to the program in late August and decided to wait and meet the new staff before making a decision on whether or not to reopen his recruitment. That patience paid off as soon as Napier and Gates got a chance to meet in January.
“I think sitting down with Coach Napier and that first interaction with him, was when I knew Florida was still where I want to be,” Gates said to 247Sports. “I had posted something on Twitter a while back, and he kind of talked about it with me. That just showed me how detail-oriented he is and how he pays attention to things. The post I made was from a year and a half ago, and that was crazy to me how he knew that.”
Twitter sleuthing aside, Napier also impressed Gates with some of his hires. Cornerbacks coach Corey Raymond is one of the most respected position coaches in the country, and Gates is expected to be a defensive back at the college level. The two spent much of the visit together and are looking forward to spending more time together once Gates gets enrolled.
Napier’s staff brought a new energy to the program that wasn’t there when Gates signed. That culture change isn’t lost on him, and he says it’s the kind of thing that makes you want to be a part of the team.
“It was really amazing,” Gates said. “The whole energy and the whole vibe was crazy when I went down there compared to other times. I just felt right at home like I always do. I liked seeing the academic facilities and the new facilities for football they are…