Florida Gators junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will enter the 2013 season as the starter after leading Florida to an 11-2 record last year, but should his football career turn south on the college or professional level, he now has a fallback option.
According to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier, the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday signed Driskel, the franchise’s 29th round selection (No. 863 overall) in the 2013 MLB Draft.
His mother, Mary Driskel, initially denied that her son inked an MLB deal, telling the Orlando Sentinel that “he hasn’t done anything since he was drafted.” However, his father, Jerry Driskel, later told the Sun-Sentinel‘s Dieter Kurtenbach that his son has indeed signed with the Red Sox but will still play for the Gators next season.
On Thursday, Driskel confirmed the decision himself via his Twitter account. “Yes I signed with the Red Sox. Nothing changes,” he tweeted. “I am still a full time student athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football. #GoGators”
He later released a statement through Florida.
“I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,” Driskel said. “After my college football career is over, I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL. If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox, who drafted me in the recent draft.”
Boston understands that he will continue playing football at UF and not immediately join the Red Sox’s farm system.
By signing Driskel, Boston owns his MLB rights for six years. Should he choose to play baseball after college or not succeed in the NFL, his back-up plan is in place.
He is not be the first college quarterback to take this action.
Wisconsin signal caller Russell Wilson (fourth round) signed with the Colorado Rockies in 2010, Washington QB Jake Locker (10th round) was locked up by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2009, and Oregon QB Dennis Dixon (fifth round) was inked by the Atlanta Braves in 2007.
Driskel is eligible to play in rookie leagues on behalf of the Red Sox over the summer, but it is unlikely that the Gators would be amenable to that plan as they were for QB Doug Johnson, who spent two summers with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1996-97. Johnson was signed out of high school and gave up baseball in 1998.
According to NCAA rules, Driskel is able to accept a signing bonus and benefits from Boston – and may even sign with an agent as long as it is strictly for baseball – but cannot sign any endorsement deals.
He has not played baseball since 2011 when he was the starting center fielder for Hagerty High School in Oviedo, FL. Driskel originally wanted to play both sports in college but settled on football full-time.
Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press