Former Florida walk-on hosts an AMA on Reddit, gives insider Gators info

Photo: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

College football is a daily battle of sifting through contradictions. As so-called “amateurs,” the players are kept from the media that raises awareness for their teams and helps make fans feel like they’re closer to the program as well.

However, those same members of the media want more access to players and coaches, seeing as the entire industry is one that generates billions of dollars in revenue every year.

In the end, the coaches generally get their way, allowing media members very minimal access to players. The University of Florida’s PR department, for example, is known as a practical dictatorship when it comes to the media and what they can publish about the athletes.

Following a brutal loss to in-state rival Miami in Week 2, Florida coach Will Muschamp put the clamps on, for the most part keeping his star players off the podium and away from any form of media spotlight. What’s worse is the fact that the Gators had a bye week afterwards. With Tennessee heading to The Swamp on Saturday, fans want any and all information they can get.

Luckily, the world still has Reddit. After failing to make the team as both a freshman and sophomore, running back Jesse Schmidt trained his tail off and earned himself a walk-on role as a junior. He earned a stellar reputation not only as an extremely hard worker with the team, but off the playing field as well. He was profiled by GatorZone’s Scott Walker in a piece titled, “Pushing Forward: Gators Walk-On Jesse Schmitt Headed Toward Marines, Fueled by Family and 9/11.”

With very little information, again, surrounding the Florida football program at the moment, those covering the team were scouring for anything and everything to post. Then, Only Gators‘ Adam Silverstein (via Allison Banko of Gator Tailgating) spotted Schmidt’s Reddit AMA – short for “Ask Me Anything.”

Fans did exactly that, and Schmidt responded candidly. His information is well-articulated and definitely not something we’d be hearing from any current players anytime soon.

Silverstein has paired down the responses to make them more readable.

On quarterback Jeff Driskel:

Jeff is absolutely fine. He made probably 3 or 4 bad throws/decisions on Saturday. Yes, you want to cut down on those, and yes they hurt us. But every football players makes a few mistakes every game, don’t delude yourself to think otherwise. There are plenty of Gators who had worse games than Jeff on Saturday, including one of my best friends on the team Trey Burton. It just is was it is, people have bad days. They know it, they recognize mistakes, and they work to never commit them again. That’s part of being an athlete.

Jeff is a great guy, an incredible athlete, and I am 100% confident in him moving forward. And I’m equally sure that if you asked everyone in the locker room that same question, they would say the exact same thing.

On fan/media criticism of the Gators:

Social media LIGHTS UP after a disappointing loss like ours was on Saturday, and everyone seems to know exactly how to fix things. Look, collective internet-bros, the team spends literally days worth of time every week perfecting every little aspect of their game. The coaches spend more time watching film than they do with their kids. Every single person on the team has dedicated their body and soul to winning. And on Saturday, if things go wrong, people crucify them from their couches. It’s actually a bit of a sore spot with me, now.

The media, at least, can provide more expert analysis. If you had an NFL career? Yeah, you can say whatever you want about how the team or any player played. You’ve got the experience. Even if you’ve been a fan all your life, for decades, you just haven’t seen enough football to truly criticize a football player or team.

On The Swamp’s locker room:

Ok, I’ll try to describe the shape in words, hopefully it comes through. The locker room is a gigantic rectangle. The main room is in the shape of a cooking pot. The bigger part of the pot is the main room, with a big open space, and most of the lockers for the scholarship players. There are a few couches and a TV. The handle of the pot, “In the back” as we called it, is where the walk-on lockers are. It’s the same room, just a bit off to the side.

Underneath the handle is the bathroom/showers, as well as a player’s lounge they just put in. The lounge has two giant TVs, a bunch of comfy chairs, ad refrigerator (with nothing in it) and a pool table.

On the relationships between players:

The players are nearly 100% super cool. They tend to be closer friends with either offense or defense, depending on their position, and they’re closest friends are probably in their own position group (RBs, LBs, WRs, whatever). But everyone on the team is a brother, and you can go up to anyone and hang out. There’s pretty little distinction between walk-ons and scholarship players, because they know we’re out there busting our ass just like they are. Among players, if you show yourself to be a good dude who works hard, you get respect. Doesn’t matter if you’re a starter or a walk-on.

As for shenanigans: You have not LIVED until you’ve seen defensive linemen dancing in nothing but towels. Our locker room had a nice stereo system the guys would plug their music into, and everyone knows that Dominique Easley likes to dance. That shit was always funny. Beyond that, standard locker room highjinks. Towel-whipping, etc. Some of these guys really are nothing but gigantic 11 year olds. Sharrif and Easley spring to mind.

On jorts (jean shorts):

OK, this is one thing I’ve never understood. The whole Gator Fans=Jorts thing. Yeah, Gainesville is a bit of a rural community, and yeah I know it’s all just good-natured taunting and whatnot. But there are so many other things to choose from, I don’t know how or why jorts became our negative calling card. And now some fans wear them ironically to big games like FL-GA or UF-FSU. I guess I shouldn’t look for logic in SEC fanbases, though.

But I own none. Unfortunately, because I’m sure my thighs would look great in them.

On who Florida has a bigger rivalry with, Georgia or Florida State:

For me, FSU. All my high school friends either went to UF or FSU. Or UCF, but they don’t matter. Point is, if we lose to the Noles I have to put up with their obnoxious facebook posts. Sorry GA.

On Tennessee:

Sorry, but you haven’t been good enough in the past few years. It’s all cyclical, you guys will be back around in good time.

(Why does this sound like I’m breaking up with Tennessee? It’s not you, babe, it’s me.)

For more of the recap of Schmitt’s AMA head on over to Only Gators.