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Column: Fowler's flip doesn't merit FSU fans' hatred

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Wed. February 1, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: Fowler's flip doesn't merit FSU fans' hatred

ST. PETERSBURG

Dante Fowler Jr. changed his mind Wednesday morning.

The Lakewood High School defensive end said no to Florida State, the school he had been orally committed to since 2010, and said yes to a school he fell in love with, Florida.

He went from five-star recruit to a no-star one just like that.

From useful to useless. From highly rated to overrated.

Hey, I got an idea.

Let’s rush over to Facebook and trash him on his wall!

Let’s rip him on message boards!

Let’s say that Dante Fowler Jr. is the reason everyone hates recruiting!

Okay. Now then.

Everyone feel better?

Let’s start with this:

Berkeley Prep’s Nelson Agholor did it right.

Dante Fowler Jr. did it wrong.

We can all agree on that much, right?

Agholor’s skill and grace handling the recruiting maze was magnificent. The Berkeley Prep star waited until the last possible moment to make a decision, kept as low a profile as one of his stature possibly could, then put on a Southern Cal hat Wednesday.

Fowler orally committed to FSU 13 months ago, played footsie with Florida all summer, then, at the last possible moment, picked the Gators.

He knows it was a mistake to let it drag on. He wishes he hadn’t done it quite like that.

But he did.

“Yeah, I kind of look at Nelson as the way to do it because he kept quiet, but it is what it is,’’ Fowler said. “I had fun with it. But it’s over now.’’

Hopefully that’s true, but for some, it isn’t.

Listen, I can see why FSU coaches would be upset. They held a spot for Fowler and put up with a player who went hot and cold.

Honestly, I said more than once the past few months that they should just pull the scholarship and change direction. I hear they almost did.

But FSU fan, while I would accept disappointment, why are you so angry? Is it because he went to Florida, and not USC or Clemson or somewhere not in Gainesville?

You have the country’s second-best recruiting class. And not even counting those linemen you have coming back that made up those other top-five recruiting classes the past few years, you signed top-notch four- and five-star recruits Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie

Goldman and Chris Casher and Justin Shanks, and gee whiz, how many do you guys need?

So you lost Fowler. Going to his Facebook page and telling him he will amount to nothing and is a chump won’t bring him back.

It might, however, convince him he made the right decision.

Yes, Fowler could have done this better in so many different ways.

But he didn’t.

Enjoy Edwards, you’ll love him. Casher is a stud, too.

Move on.

I will defend Fowler by saying this: He committed to FSU when he was 16. That’s where his dad wanted him to go. That’s where he wanted to go.

But things change.

When he committed, by the way, Will Muschamp wasn’t even the head coach at Florida.

Once hired, Muschamp worked hard to build a relationship with Fowler, and succeeded.

“Over time, you could see him win Dante over,’’ his dad, Dante Sr., said.

If Fowler truly decided Tuesday night or Wednesday morning to sign with Florida, you can’t find fault with him.

But if he knew sooner, and this really was all just a game, then he clearly lacked the judgement, maturity and proper guidance to do the right and decent thing.

Whatever story you wish to believe probably determined how quickly you sent him an angry text or message Wednesday.

Dante still didn’t seem to get the whole fuss Wednesday.

Still smiling. Still with the awww shucks, I was just having fun. Still unable, perhaps, to grab the seriousness of the whole thing.

Dante Sr. breathed deeply and leaned back against a wall in the hallway outside a conference room at Lakewood, where happy Spartans dined on vanilla cake.

He gets it. Now.

“I see the mistakes I made with Dante,’’ he said. “When I go through this process again, Donterio’ (a sophomore receiver at Lakewood) won’t make the same mistakes. He’s not going to commit early to a school. He may have someone in mind where he wants to go, but we’re going to keep everything low key.

“This whole thing, this media stuff, it just blew us away.’’

Gainesville, here he comes. It’s a decision Dante Fowler Jr. will have to live with.

Not you.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com

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