With National Signing Day coming up on Feb. 3, the Florida Gators are still trying to put together a recruiting class that could very well be considered the best all-time when everything is said and done. One member of that prestigious class, four-star defensive end Lynden Trail (Miami, FL) of Booker T. Washington High School, sat down with OGGOA for a wide-ranging interview about the recruiting process, his future with the Gators, some controversial pictures and life in general. Trail spoke with us for almost a half hour and answered every question we asked, including some that were quite personal.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Is it tough to go to an in-state rival coming out of Miami? Did everyone in your life expect you to go to The U?
LYNDEN TRAIL: “The whole atmosphere at Florida just felt like home. I grew up a big UM fan. Everybody around me is huge UM fans. It’s just the way that they came at me in the recruiting process. They’re a great school and everything, but they didn’t fit where I wanted to be. Where I lived, I had my mind made up – I gotta [sic] get out of Miami.”
AS: How long did you know you wanted to play for the Gators?
LT: “It was a good six months before I committed [that I knew]. I always knew in my heart. The minute I got my UM scholarship in March, I kind of strayed away from UM. The more and more I talked to Urban Meyer and my position coach [Dan] McCarney, the more I felt like they were family. The fact that they have a family oriented atmosphere up in Gainesville was a nice draw to the campus. And the fans are great.”
Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Lynden Trail after the jump!
AS: Who aside from Quinton [Dunbar] have you grown closest with throughout the exhausting recruiting process?
LT: “Matt Elam. We met last year. Unfortunately, [Booker T. Washington] lost to [Dwyer] last year 24-21 after beating them three years consecutively. They finally got one in.”
AS: How much stock do you put into the stars and ratings given to you by various recruiting services? Do they ever get you angry or motivated?
LT: “It’s a big deal, but at the same time it’s not a big deal. It’s a big deal when it comes to your image and stuff like that. I don’t really take the ratings personally, [though] I do take some ratings personally. When some of the ratings first came out, they had [some other players] higher than me. They go off of projections in college instead of stats, which I think is kind of unfair. I think they should go off of stats. No matter how big a person is, you still have to put them on the field and let him do what he does [sic].”
AS: What are Florida coaches having you do on your own time to get ready before you join them in Gainesville?
LT: “The conditioning coach let me know what I need to do, what I need to start eating to get right [sic] so when I get up there it won’t be as hard on me.”
AS: Obviously the recruits and high school players all speak with each other and want to play together – who have you been working on bringing into the fold?
LT: “I have been working on two players so far. I had been working on [five-star defensive tackle commit] Sharrif Floyd. I’m kind of happy that I can actually say I had something to do with that – putting together our defensive line. And McCarney is very excited. Other than that, Meyer put a little bug in the air and let me know we really need [four-star wide receiver] Ivan McCartney and [four-star offensive tackle] Chaz Green, so I’ve been talking to them, recruiting them. Letting McCartney know that Florida is where it’s at. He’s down to UM, West Virginia and UF. And I was like, ‘University of Miami is my first love, but they’re stacked with wide receivers, so that is not the place for you. West Virginia is far up north – when is the last time they played for a championship? And nobody wants to play in the cold weather, trust me.’”
AS: Sounds like you are giving [three-star quarterback commit] Trey Burton a run as the best recruiter in the 2010 class.
LT: “When the whole deal about the leave of absence thing went down, me and Trey Burton were the ones that got together and called all the Gators who were committed to us already to let them know that Urban is all right, everything is going to be OK. Once I found out we were pulling together as a family, then I knew we’re projected to win a good two-out-of-four National Championships in the next four-to-five years.”
AS: Do you have any insight on situation with Demar Dorsey?
LT: “I’m not that close with Demar Dorsey; I am close with [four-star WR commit] Chris Dunkley though. Chris Dunkley has a little connection with Dorsey, I speak to him from time-to-time. I did let [Dorsey] know that he tried [sic] our recruiting class by committing there, that’s a slap in the face to go to Florida State. Out of every college in the nation – Florida State? We don’t even call them ‘Florida State’ at Florida, we call them ‘Team Out West,’ so that’s how bad it is.”
AS: Are you already experiencing the rivalry between the two schools?
LT: “I canceled my Florida State trip just because [of the rivalry]. I didn’t know there was that much hatred between Florida State and Florida.”
AS: We hear you have a fiancée, so we’re going to put you on the spot: when are you getting married? Is she going to be joining you in Gainesville right away?
LT: “We both agreed that it’s great that we’re engaged, but we just want to take it slow and see how college goes. Urban Meyer encouraged her to at least attempt Santa Fe [Community College]. She’s older than me, so she is in undergrad right now for medical coding and billing. She gets up to Gainesville [sic], what she’ll be doing is going to Santa Fe for a year and then (hopefully) transfer all of her credits and stuff over to Florida.”
AS: What did Urban Meyer say to you after he came to the decision to take a leave of absence from the team? What have you heard from him lately?
LT: “Meyer, the first thing he told me, he wanted just to thank me and Burton for keeping our class together, [he said] that just shows leadership. I told him [that] I expect to be a leader on the defensive side of the ball and just bring that Miami swagger up there and let everybody know we’re here to play. I talk to Urban Meyer every day. Usually he calls me in the morning time when he gets up, right before school. He lets me know what’s going on with him. He’s perfectly fine. Looks can be deceiving, at the same time, he’s very strong-hearted and he won’t let anybody know what’s really going on. You just gotta [sic] trust that he’ll be healthy and ready to coach.”
AS: Did Charlie Strong’s departure give you any second thoughts about the Gators?
LT: “I didn’t have any second thoughts at all because, when I committed, I didn’t commit to Urban Meyer, I didn’t commit to Charlie Strong, I committed to Florida and I committed to the fans. Because I know one thing – the fans will always be there, and the school will always be there. That’s life, when people leave. When opportunity comes calling, they have to do what’s best for their families. They’re both great coaches, Charlie Strong and coach [Vance] Bedford, they’re both great coaches. They kept it real with me, and that’s what I like. Don’t sugar coat nothing [sic], that’s what those guys did.
AS: Have you had a chance to meet and speak with his replacement, George Edwards?
LT: Coach Edwards is a real down-to-earth guy. I got to talk to him on my official visit. He doesn’t seem as intense as every other coach, but I know once he gets settled down and comfortable in his new environment, he’ll probably be as fired up as everybody else.”
AS: What part of your game do you think needs the most work in order for you to be successful playing college football in the SEC?
LT: “I’ve only been [playing defensive end] for a year and a half, most people don’t know that. A lot of people think I was just bred into the defensive end position. It is just basic instinct and skill with my coach putting me in the right position so I can do what I do. If anything, technique will help. My favorite move is the spin move because I’m very athletic and I play basketball, and that’s my favorite move on the court, too. I incorporated that very easily when I got on the football field. My speed really comes into play when it comes to the spin move, because they kick out real fast and open up, so I spin back in.”
AS: Do you have anything special planned for National Signing Day?
LT: “A couple of guys real close to the family are planning an after party for me. I’m not quite sure what we are going to be doing yet. But with those guys it is always fun. I am quite sure we will have a lot of fun.”
AS: One thing that fans always talk about is negative recruiting. Throughout your recruiting process, did you get a lot of that from other schools about Florida?
LT: “Earlier in the recruiting process, that’s one thing I respected about Florida. They never said anything bad about another school. They were just like, ‘We’re better than them.’ They didn’t say, ‘Oh, don’t go there because such-and-such does this or such-and-such does that.’ There are a couple of other schools that pushed me away by saying, ‘Florida this, Florida that.’ That just made Florida look even better to me! You’re supposed to be recruiting for your college, not recruiting [against] Florida, which is what they were doing. If you know this much about Florida, than you need to worry about your own program, not what Florida does.”
AS: How did you feel when those old pictures of you making hand gestures surfaced online and were posted by a variety of news outlets?
LT: “If anything, when I found out who actually posted it [first], it came out to be a UM fan just like I expected. I love UM, I don’t see why any UM fan would want to bring me down. I’m just a regular guy who doesn’t live in a rich housing [sic]. I’m just trying to make it out like everybody else. The area I’m living in, it’s like a rule: it’s either you get down or you lay down. As I progressed and got older, I earned respect in my hood. So I didn’t have to do those things anymore – I didn’t have to wear a flag or throw up no signs [sic]. But now, most of them are like, ‘Those are gang signs,’ but I don’t see it that way. I’ve thrown up that sign multiple times in games, and nobody has ever said anything to me. They see a picture with a bandana around my face and they automatically think, ‘Oh, he’s a gangster.’
And the first thing they throw in there is, ‘We don’t want another Dunlap, we don’t need nobody [sic] getting another DUI.’ Dunlap’s never been in trouble. He makes one mistake and everybody goes crazy about it. I’ve never been in trouble. They’ve done a background investigation – I don’t have a record, I’ve never held a gun, I’ve never shot anybody, I’ve never been around nobody [sic] that’s shot anybody. I’ve had a gun pointed in my face before. And just because of what flag I actually had on that day. My homeboy walked up and was like, ‘Nah, he cool,’ and that saved my life. Sports Illustrated is supposed to be coming down and doing a life story on me. And I actually [want to] let them know how hard it is to live where I live.
In addition to that, there was one story that really upset me. I was on Google and I was searching my name, and my best friend just passed away in July – he got shot at a party. And the story was like, ‘Also gang member Anthony Smith was killed.’ My best friend was not a gang member, and I did not really appreciate them [saying that]. That really hurt my heart. The computer I was looking at, I wanted to break the screen, but I was at school.”
AS: Did football help protect you in some ways, maybe even save you from a life you did not wish to lead?
LT: “Football really helped because, once I started to actually show up on the field (making plays), and scholarships started coming in, I earned the respect of the ‘hood. Nobody ever bothered me after that. They saw me doing something positive. I don’t have a worry nowadays. I don’t have to worry about where I’m walking or who’s around me or what colors I have on.”
AS: Similar pictures of Leon Orr surfaced at the same time as yours did. Have you two had a chance to speak and perhaps vent about it?
LT: “I didn’t really get a chance to talk to Leon. His pictures were real young, and my pictures were real young. I don’t represent no [sic] gang, I threw up that sign to let my neighborhood know that I’m not ever going to forget where I come from. I know plenty of people see [Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad] Ochocinco throw up ‘305.’ Do they think that’s a gang sign?”
AS: What do you want to tell Gator Nation about how you plan to impact the Gators over the next three or four years?
LT: “I want to be ‘The Freak III’ because that’s what Urban Meyer has donned me with my nickname. Most of us have nicknames on the defensive line. They call [five-star DE commit] Dominique [Easley] ‘Dominico’ because that’s his Italian nickname, they call Leon Orr ‘The Earthquake,’ they call Sharrif Floyd ‘The Sheriff,’ and I’m not sure what they call [five-star DE commit Ronald] Powell yet. I don’t know if he has a nickname yet. I want to remind everyone of Jevon Kearse slash Carlos Dunlap, but much quicker. If anything, I just want to be that [type of] dominant player.”
Trail added that he will be studying telecommunications at the University of Florida.