- Derek Tyson, RecruitingNation
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With several uncommitted prospects on hand at Florida's Friday Night Lights, it was two committed prospects, Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, Fla./First Coast) and Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, Ga./Carver), who had the attention of the Gator Nation.
McMillian, a four-star linebacker, comes from a school that regularly sends players to Florida State. He also recently camped in Tallahassee and had some Florida fans worried about his commitment to the Gators. Like McMillian, Hawkins, a four-star wide receiver, has taken trips elsewhere this summer. Friday also happened to be Hawkins' first trip to Gainesville.
It appears that Florida fans can rest easy for both players.
"The visit, it was great," Hawkins said. "I loved the visit. It felt just like home. It was great facilities, it was great to meet the coaches face-to-face. The campus was great, the tour was great, the academics center was great. This was my first time and I loved it. So no more trips, this is home. That's it for my recruiting."
McMillian, who's demeanor wasn't quite as enthusiastic as Hawkins, said despite plans to take official visits to Alabama and Ohio State, he is firmly committed to the Gators.
"I'd say I'm 99.99-percent committed to Florida," McMillian said. "They [Florida coaches] said go ahead because they are 100 percent confident that I'm committed there."
McMillian admits he is impressed with some things Alabama has to offers, but added that being close to home is a key factor for him.
"Alabama has good facilities -- great facilities, it's amazing," he said, "but there's nothing like being in your home state of Florida."
McMillian, the No. 43-ranked player in the country, said he plans to visit Florida for the LSU game in October.
2015 LB grew up Florida fan
Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast HS linebacker Sherrod Pittman was on hand Friday but not participate in the event. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound athlete has offers from UCF and FSU already, but says he grew up rooting for the Gators.
"I grew up a Gator fan with my godfather," Pittman said. "We had Gator footballs laying around the house. We were crazy Gator fans."
Pittman is a teammate of McMillian, the Florida linebacker commit, and said McMillian tries to persuade him to Florida.
"Daniel talks to me about going to Florida," Pittman said. "He is always talking to me. He's like, 'Sherrod, you need to come to Florida with me. I'll be lonely.' So I've been thinking about what Daniel told me."
Though Pittman declined to name a leader, he said there are a few visits he would like to take over the next several months.
"I was thinking about going with Kain Daub, the 2014 linebacker, to the LSU-Alabama game," he said. "I was thinking about visiting Alabama this summer, too."
Pittman said a former high school teammate is a reason he likes the Crimson Tide: "Alabama, they are a good team and they have one of our alumni, Chris Black, on their team. I like them."
Remembering a former teammate
More than 300 players attended Friday Night Lights, but it was easy to spot the five players from Miami (Fla.) Carol City. They all wore white headbands in honor of a former teammate who died early last week.
Linebacker Paul "P.J." Royal was shot and killed on Tuesday night as he sat in a car in front of a friend's house, according to a report in the Miami Herald. Royal was supposed to leave for Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Fla., on Friday. He had earned a full scholarship to play football at the NAIA school. To honor his memory, former teammates Simeon Thomas, William French, Aaron Thomas, Gerald Robinson and Akeem Jones wore headbands with "P.J. RIP" written in black.
"We were sitting there reminiscing and thought it was something we could do," French said.
Valentine names leader
Former Louisville 2014 defensive tackle commit Travonte Valentine attended Friday Night Lights but did not participate in any drills. The 6-4, 295 tackle has said recently that Florida and Florida State where his top two schools and that he could be nearing a decision.
After festivities concluded on Friday, Valentine said Florida State is his No. 1 school right now, while the Gators are No. 2. He also added he will likely wait a while before making his decision.
2014 running back close to earning Florida offer?
Deerfield Beach (Fla.) running back Brandon Powell could be close to gaining a Florida offer. Powell, whose only offer is from UMass, said he thinks he performed well enough to receive the offer.
"I was just upstairs talking to them about an offer," he said. "They were saying they were going to get together Monday and call me and let me know. They were really impressed with what I did at running back."
Powell (5-9, 165) now has attended camps at Florida and Florida State but remains open and has no leader.
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough