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  • Writer's pictureDavid Soderquist

Billy Napier front and center at SEC Media Days

Billy Napier took the stage at SEC Media Days this past Wednesday for his first media day event in the Southeastern Conference. Billy Napier, the former Sunbelt coach of the year, met with many media members who were jonesing to get his take on his first experiences as an SEC head coach before the start of the season. Billy had a lot to say in his 30-minute segment, but the main takeaway that I had from the whole event was the fact that Billy stuck to his guns. Billy never once changed his perspective on his players, staff, and most importantly, the fans who fill Ben Hill Griffin Stadium every year.

"I am very humbled and honored to represent the University of Florida and all of the Gators. More importantly, our team, our players, our staff, our entire organization from top to bottom."

After thanking the staff, players, fans, media, and NIL collectives, Billy took the stage from many media members SEC-wide in preparation for the gauntlet of questions he would be asked coming from the Sunbelt to the Southeastern Conference. Billy didn't shy away at any question asked of him. He was very unpretentious and deferent with every answer.

"The game is about the players, and we want to create an organization that has a life-changing impact on the players. We have put together a great infrastructure that's all about the players. We firmly believe that better people make better football players. We are committed to improving their character, we are going to prioritize their education, and we are going to teach football at a high level."

The current head coach for the University of Florida didn't shy away from talking about it being a player's sport. About two months ago, Billy Napier spoke at the Atlanta Gator Gathering in Sandy Springs, Georgia, and merely said the exact quote. My big takeaway is that many head coaches say certain things and then retract them or never mention them again. Billy Napier consistently talks about his players and player development from a high level and has never changed his tone since he walked into the University of Florida. He has always spoken about his plan for player and character development.

"We've got an incredible product. We have history, tradition, and an elite degree. We have one of the best experiences for scholar-athletes in the entire country. I think they understand why there has been a struggle and they are working hard to address those things. But, I love a challenge, and this is a challenge."

We have heard Billy talk about this before "Embrace the challenge. Are you doing the prescribed work? Are you taking shortcuts? Are you a leader?" The change has impacted many players on this football team for the better. We have seen players get cut for the 85 scholarship limit, and they were not just any players. These were highly touted recruits in their recruiting class who could eventually get extensive playing time at a high level. We have also seen high-level players transfer out because of other issues relating to school work. Thanks to the Gator Collective, I have been able to keep in touch and interview many players on this Florida Gators Football team, and one thing that has been consistent when talking to the players in the approach has been discipline. Discipline in your gameplay, process, class work, and off-the-field situations. Napier got asked about the SEC, Kirby Smart, and if he sees a sizable divide between the top and the rest in the conference.

"I think we are all aware that if you can win your division, win the SEC, you can be a contender for the playoff. We are consumed with Florida right now. We got a lot of grass to mow and its our grass not anybody else's grass. We got a lot of work to do. It's one day at a time, it's one person at a time, and that is the approach we are taking."

Napier has shown complete focus on this football program and has not worried about any outside noise, but also shown he is aware of the surroundings in the Southeastern Conference and what brings national championships to programs in the nation. One thing is for sure; Billy Napier has focused on the Florida Gators Football program and the players around him. This goes to players' physical and mental development, recruiting outside and inside Florida, and the staff concentrating on their specific tasks.

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