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SHARKS STANDOUT STORY SETTLES ON FLORIDA

Nature Coast receiver Ja'Juan Story was "amazed" by the University of Florida and what it has to offer.

After his visit last week to the Gainesville campus, he decided to orally commit, doing so Monday afternoon. In a conversation with Florida assistant Dan McCarney, Story said, "Florida is a school that can help me reach my dream."

McCarney then welcomed him to the Gator family.

Story, ranked No. 3 on the St. Petersburg Times' Fab 50 prospects list for 2011, has 28 scholarship offers, including from schools such as Ohio State, Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State.

"I feel like I've seen everything I've needed to see," Story said. "It was amazing. I got along good with all the coaches. When I talked to the academic man I liked what they had in store for me. I don't even see why I should go somewhere else."

Story had cut his list of suitors in half June 15, hoping to zero in on his top choice by summer's end. He originally had planned to visit some schools because to this point has had little exposure to most campuses. Story and his uncle, Rudy, visited Florida last week and both left with a feeling the Gainesville campus had everything a national contender could offer.

"I think it was a first-class facility from strength and conditioning to the academic program," Rudy Story said. "The whole program is second to none. They have things in there I've never seen as far as training.

"Along with the academic support they have in place it's basically idiot proof. You could graduate in three-and-a-half years if you follow their program. You will walk out with a degree from one of the finest schools in the country and you'll have a chance to be drafted in the NFL."

Of course, it doesn't hurt that Florida happens to be the closest perennial power to Story's hometown. That should make it an easy drive for friends and family to see the Sharks standout play Saturdays in the Swamp.

"I told them I've been thinking about it and Florida is a school that can help me with what I want to do in life," Story said. "I want to earn my master's degree. That's a good school for me to go to.

"They have a nice campus. I won't get bored with it. I plan on going there for four years."

This fall, Story (6-4, 185 pounds) will begin the season at quarterback. Coach Mark Nash recently moved Story from receiver after Nature Coast's spring evaluation period. Nash made the move to get his playmaker more touches. And without a proven quarterback to get Story the ball outside, this proved the best option.

Story primarily played receiver and defensive back in 2009, also sharing time at quarterback. He had 13 receptions for 423 yards (32.5 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. At quarterback, he had 27 carries for 265 yards and two touchdowns (just two starts as a quarterback). Defensively he had 22 tackles and one sack.

ESPNU rates Story a four-star recruit (out of five stars) and No. 41 overall in the nation. Recruiting Web sites Rivals.com and Scout.com both have Story as a three-star recruit.

Story is the bay area's second 2011 Florida commitment, joining Tampa Catholic fullback Hunter Joyer, who played two years at Wesley Chapel.

And Story would like to see at least one more bay area player land with the Gators. Story is close friends with Pasco linebacker/defensive back Jamie Byrd, and the two speak constantly about the recruiting process.

Florida has visited Pasco's campus, and Story said McCarney expressed interest in Byrd.

"He asked about that Byrd kid," Story said. "He said, 'We're pretty interested in him.' That'll be awesome (if Byrd gets an offer to Florida). We're always talking about going to the same school."

More recruiting news

Pasco's Byrd also picked up a scholarship offer from Florida Atlantic, coach Tom McHugh said Monday.

Byrd has offers from Purdue, Iowa State, Georgia Southern and Youngstown State, and interest from schools such as USF.

Byrd earned first-team all-Suncoast honors in 2009, was the Times' all-North Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year and was named a Maxpreps.com junior All-American after the 2009 season. He led the Pirates with 129 tackles, six sacks and four fumble recoveries.

FAU also offered Pasco receiver Hakeeme Ishmar recently.

The senior has offers from Georgia Southern and Youngstown State. He was Pasco's top receiver last season with 400 yards and four touchdowns, sharing the load with four receivers who had at least 350 yards and two or more touchdowns each.

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