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August 22, 2014

Roundtable: Football parents


Roundtable features are normally reserved for Inside the Gators staff members, or staff members combined with network analysts or off site guests, to share their opinions on various topics related to the sports programs at the University of Florida.

Today's version is a bit different. This time around ITG has asked the parents of football players to share their thoughts on several subjects.

Over the years Inside the Gators has had quite a few family members of players as members. Two who have agreed to take part in the Roundtable discussion are Dr Stephanie Hall (mother of former linebacker Jelani Jenkins) and Warren Silberman (father of former offensive lineman Ian Silberman).

To be fair, in order to ensure objective responses and hopefully allow the parents to open up as much as possible, we have given each parent the ability to remain anonymous (we wouldn't use their name and cross out their son's name or alter any answer that would identify who they are in their responses).

Today's participants decided against that option.

Here are their answers to our questions:

1) At what point did you realize that your son was a special football player and was going to have an opportunity to play at the collegiate level?

Dr. Hall: Probably during my son's freshman year in high school when he was already being pursued by D1 universities in our area. He was clearly stronger and faster than most of his teammates and opponents ... and early projections were very favorable that he would be pursued by major universities all over the country. Prior to that, I had nothing to compare his abilities to.

Mr. Silberman: After I took him to his first Underclass combine in Jacksonville.

2) Going back to the recruiting process, describe what it was like for your son.

Dr. Hall: It was crazy. My son has always been fairly shy, and does not like to be singled out nor bring distractions to his team/craft. My husband and I had to reroute all of his calls from coaches, journalists, and other interested parties so he could focus on his schoolwork and football. We had to take on a managerial role early on. My son received his first D1 scholarship offer the beginning of his sophomore year and from that point forward, he was feverishly sought after for comments and interviews. My son would have liked to end the recruiting process before his senior year but as a family we decided to wait until Signing Day for the following reasons: (1) With so many offers, we needed time to sort all the schools out and we visited a portion of the schools (at least 25) unofficially (on our dime); (2) we wanted to compare what coaches were saying/representing with what we saw during the season (sideline antics, team character when losing, etc) and (3) ESPN wanted to carry my son's decision live and we wanted his other teammates and the school to benefit as much as possible from the increased notoriety

Mr. Silberman: He was very calm about the entire process, at first he was hoping to get an offer from LSU, but he truly liked Steve Addazio, and after making his verbal commitment to UF, he pretty much ignored most of the other offers that rolled in.

3) If you were in charge and had the ability to change one thing about the recruiting process, what would that be?

Dr. Hall: I would allow more official visits. I would further restrict contact periods to prospective athletes during the school year from university staff and media representatives (I worry about the athletes who don't have intermediaries like my son had in us).

Mr. Silberman: I would limit the time for offers to the players last 18 months of High School. If an athlete decides he or she wants to enroll early, they still have had plenty of time to make a decision. I would also limit press exposure, the recent antics of some of these kids, particularly the UF commit that used a baby alligator to announce his decision, are all to self-serving on the athlete's part. Making an announcement on TV or in the manner described above only inflate an athlete's ego, and also encourages individualism in a team sport.

4) What were your feelings on Urban Meyer while he was the coach at Florida, how he left and finally when he resurfaced at Ohio State?

Dr. Hall: I loved Urban Meyer while he was at Florida; he was passionate, courageous, and he was a winner. He made his players believe that they could do anything. I was disturbed at the way he left and felt abandoned. My son was heavily recruited by Urban Meyer and Charlie Strong and it seemed that once a select few players left Florida, he was not as passionate nor was he as eager to put in the work to rebuild with the players he had personally recruited. While everything that happened may have been legit, it all felt fake and we even contemplated leaving Florida when everything went down. I eventually forgave him, believing that he ultimately needed to do what was best for himself and his family.

Mr. Silberman: While my son was there, Meyer seemed detached, and not real interested in coaching. I got that feeling because of what had happened in the fall of 2010 before my son enrolled. It seemed as though Meyer was only going through the motions so he wouldn't have to pay back some of his bonus. As for his leaving then taking the OSU job after a year on TV, I feel that was a betrayal to Gator fans, Gator families, and to his own family as well. He betrayed all of his recruits from the past two to three years, and that contributed to my feelings about the next few questions.

5) Describe Will Muschamp in one word. Then, please explain why you picked that one word.

Dr. Hall: Intense. Will Muschamp's essence is one of intensity. From the way he looks, to the way he acts, to the way he lives life. When he was first hired I immediately scheduled a meeting with him to introduce our family. And from the moment I walked into his office I was engulfed in his intensity.

Mr. Silberman: (This question wasn't posed to Mr. Silberman)

6) Being a parent of a player at a big time football school, is it hard to hear and/or read some of the things that have been said and/or written about your son?

Dr. Hall: Yes it is. However I am wise and mature enough to know how fickle the media and fans can be. We have always tried to teach our son the importance of being a good steward, a man of character, and a person of integrity. Even if his play on the field is subpar, we can be proud of him as a young man. So yes, it is difficult at times seeing inaccurate, inappropriate, mean-spirited comments - but I've learned to just "consider the source(s)"

Mr. Silberman: Not for me I am used to many forms of criticism, while on active duty and a supervisor, I received criticism of my troops from my superiors and had to look at thing objectively. Often times, the criticism was well deserved, and it was up to me to fix the issues. So, hearing things about my son, I often considered that the people making the criticism don't actually know him, haven't spent 17-20 years around him, and were thus uninformed. Mostly the criticism about him just rolled off my back.

7) Has there ever been an instance at a game or elsewhere where you thought that a criticism was over the top?

Dr. Hall: Not really. Thankfully there didn't seem to be excessive, over the top criticisms about my son. I think he was generally regarded as an intelligent young man with a huge up-side.

Mr. Silberman: I never felt that way, the only time that there was anything that rankled me was from an opposing fan, who was well intoxicated, and not related to football or anything on the field.

8) What is the best part of being a football parent - and the worst?

Dr. Hall: Best - seeing your child excel at something that is his passion. Knowing that he gets to do something well that he has worked extremely hard to perfect. Knowing how happy it makes your son to be doing that which he loves, on the highest level. The worst - injuries, fear of injuries, injuries, fear of injuries, injuries, fear of injuries ... well you get my point.

Mr. Silberman: The best was being able to attend games that I never would have attended otherwise, both in the Swamp, and at other venues. The worst was basically being cut out of the loop after my son was on campus and part of the program. While he was being recruited, the parents were treated like royalty, but as soon as the athlete is on campus and enrolled, the communications and smiles stop.

9) After making as many headlines for off the field issues as on the field success during the Meyer years, there has been somewhat of a change in culture surrounding the perception of Florida football. What is your take on how Muschamp helped clean up some of the off-the-field issues the Gators faced?

Dr. Hall: I love Coach Muschamp and what he has tried to do at Florida. He is a good man and an excellent coach. I think the most important thing he has done is to actively listen to the players and others to try and make a positive impact on the football culture. He listens intently and most of the players believe him to be genuine.

Mr. Silberman: I am not real sure that the off field issues are really cleaned up, just less publicity due to less interest from the rest of the country because the success on field wasn't there in 2013. When a team is winning and is high profile, a player spitting on the sidewalk is worthy of a new report.

10) It is your son who was part of the team, but how included did you feel? What is your access like to the head man himself as well as the rest of the staff?

Dr. Hall: I felt very included ... from my relationship with his position coach, to his coordinator, to head coach Muschamp. I have never tried to contact ANYONE from the football staff without receiving an immediate response, attending to all my questions and/or concerns.

Mr. Silberman: With the staff that was there from 2011-2013, there was very little access to the staff, or to the HFC. When I did make an appointment to see Muschamp, he seemed distracted and distant while my wife and I were introducing ourselves. Our goal was to make him aware that we have always been involved with our son as far as keeping him humble and on the right track. He didn't seem to care. The following year, I went to a practice, spoke with the position coach, and almost got the same feeling.

11) Overall, on a scale of 1-to-10, how would you rate your son's, as well as your family's Gator experience both on the football field and off?

Dr. Hall: A "9". It would be a "10" if it weren't for some misunderstandings when he left early for the pros.

Mr. Silberman: Off the field, 8. He graduated with his degree. On the field, 4. His injury went un-diagnosed for the entire season, and when he mentioned it to a coach, the coach was very uncaring. It was at that point that our son decided to do his best on the practice field, concentrate on the education and leave when he graduated. He is now playing in his fifth year at another school where teamwork is emphasized, as well as proficiency at ones position.

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