SEFFNER — Armwood athlete Alvin Bailey, the No. 3 player in the HomeTeam 100 and the Tampa Bay Times’ Hillsborough County Player of the Year last season, announced Saturday that he will play for Florida.
Bailey and his teammates, friends and family gathered around the north end zone — after the Hawks’ 55-0 win over Brandon — as Sean Callahan joked that Hawks coaches were worried about Florida after the Gators’ performance Saturday and they were sending help.
Bailey then stepped forward, told his teammates they were his family and he wanted them to know first, and took off his game jersey and pads to reveal a Florida Gators T-shirt.
Bailey was emotional in thanking his mother, brothers, Callahan and Armwood offensive coordinator Evan Davis, whom the 5-11, 170-pound wide receiver called “the most wonderful person in my life” next to relatives.
When he woke up Saturday morning, Bailey was ready to end a recruitment that saw Central Florida and Notre Dame lead for his services. But the Gators’ late offer, and the presence of good friend and former teammate Matt Jones in Gainesville, swayed him to wear the blue and orange.
“When I woke up this morning, I was just so, like, ready to just do this,’’ Bailey said. “I woke up and I was like, ‘Mom, I’m ready.’ She said, ‘Okay, let’s call Coach Cal,’ and he congratulated me and told me he was behind me 100 percent.’’
Bailey then texted Davis.
“I was just ready to be a Gator, man.”
While Bailey said Jones wasn’t the main reason he was committing to Florida, it was clear the running back played a big part in the decision.
“I grew up a Gator fan and Matt Jones being up there made me see that it’s a great college. Having Matt up there when I get up there is going to be great,” Bailey said.
Bailey, who had 975 yards passing, 872 yards rushing, 404 yards receiving and 14 total TDs in 2011, will join 2012 recruits Jordan Sherit (Hillsborough), Vernon Hargreaves (Wharton) and Joey Ivie (Pasco) in Gainesville next season, giving the Gators an impressive haul from Tampa Bay.