Running back Adarius Lemons got national attention Saturday night when he announced his intention to leave Florida 34 minutes after the Gators' 27-16 home loss to Kentucky. His departure piled onto the aftermath of the end of UF's 31-game winning streak over the Wildcats.
But the Clearwater product and former blue-chip recruit said his decision was already in the works before the Gators' historic defeat.
"It wasn't really because of the game…" Lemons said Tuesday afternoon. "It was the cherry on top, you could say."
The rest of the story goes back months, when Lemons said he had problems with marijuana that earned him a suspension for the opener against Charleston Southern. The punishment could have been worse in a program that has grown stricter since Dan Mullen took over for Jim McElwain, who signed Lemons in 2017.
"Mac, he was letting a lot players get away with a lot of stuff," Lemons said. "Mullen came in. He was really strict with the rules."
Lemons said Mullen told him to either go to a rehab program or lose his spot on the team. Lemons agreed to go to Gainesville's Florida Recovery Center over the summer. That's the same program Browns receiver Josh Gordon attended.
The initial plan, Lemons said, was to stay for a month, but Mullen asked him to stay another week. He did.
"I'm showing him genuine passion I really wanted to change myself," said Lemons, a 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore. "I don't know if he really even saw that."
Or maybe Mullen did see it, but it didn't matter because UF has a crowded backfield with Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Jesuit High alumnus Malik Davis.
The carries Lemons thought he earned in part because of his effort to get clean never materialized. He didn't rush the ball Saturday, although he returned two kickoffs for 47 yards.
Lemons had previously expressed displeasure at UF, tweeting before the 2017 Vanderbilt game that it would be his last. He was planning on leaving soon after the Kentucky game (regardless of its outcome) but was "pretty much fed up" after the defeat.
He said his frustration spiked after the game, when he became disruptive while "expressing myself a little too much," during Mullen's address to the team. Lemons was asked to leave the locker room. Not long afterward, he tweeted his intention to transfer.
"I barely got touches that game," Lemons said. "I'm outta here."
Lemons intends to stay at UF through the semester before finding a new destination (preferably in the SEC) that needs a running back. Last year, he averaged 7.2 yards on 19 carries.
"We'll wish him the best," Mullen said Monday. "We'll sign his release for wherever he wants to go and support him however he does."