Former Florida Gators walk-on running back Jesse Schmitt held a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) question-and-answer session on Monday and revealed some interesting facts about the four years he spent playing college football in Gainesville, FL.
Below are some of Schmitt’s most interesting responses, slightly edited for clarity.
» On a crazy workout story involving Omarius Hines: “Our former RB Omarius Hines is the most muscular human being I’ve ever met. He looks like an action figure, and I am in no way exaggerating that. It’s insane. Apparently, during a leg press set, his quadriceps muscle actually tore through his skin. Basically, his leg exploded. This was all way back though, maybe 2009-2010. But he couldn’t work out for the longest time after that, and they still never let him max out leg press ever again. I wasn’t around for this, mind you, so I heard that second hand. But I believe it.”
» On the intensity of tight ends coach Derek Lewis: “Before every game, Coach Lewis is pacing through the locker room, screaming a motivation for the upcoming game. Not necessarily nice things about the other team, but to the effect of ‘They come in the Swamp? And they think they can play with you? No sir, not here, no way.’ And he gets progressively more and more worked up. Usually its good stuff, we get a chuckle out of it, some guys get hyped up, and it’s just part of the pre-game tradition.
“But before the LSU game, he was in great form. That was our biggest home game last year, No. 10 Florida vs. No. 2 LSU. We knew we they were a good team, we knew we were too. Everyone was psyched, and Coach Lewis even more so. We walk-ons heard him in the main part of the locker room raving like usual, and then a gigantic crash. I ran out to see he had punched THROUGH a whiteboard we had up to diagram plays and game plan, completely shattering it.
“Worse still, when he ripped his arm back through it, the jagged edges cut his arm, badly. I mean, arterial spray badly. Luckily there were some towels nearby, someone slapped them on him, the trainers were literally 25 feet away, and they got him to Shands Hospital. He could easily have died, if medical help wasn’t right there.
“After we won that game, he joyously yelled out in the locker room, ‘I’m gonna damn near kill myself before every game! Get me another board! I’ll punch that one too!’”
» On people being critical of junior quarterback Jeff Driskel: “Jeff is absolutely fine. He made probably three or four bad throws/decisions on Saturday. Yes, you want to cut down on those, and yes they hurt us. But every football player makes a few mistakes every game, don’t delude yourself to think otherwise. There are plenty of Gators who had worse games than Jeff on Saturday, including one of my best friends on the team Trey Burton. It just is was it is, people have bad days. They know it, they recognize mistakes, and they work to never commit them again. That’s part of being an athlete.
“Jeff is a great guy, an incredible athlete, and I am 100 percent confident in him moving forward. And I’m equally sure that if you asked everyone in the locker room that same question, they would say the exact same thing.”
» On being a walk-on and the process of making the team: “Freshman year, during the season, I realized how much I missed playing football. It sucked, but whatever. By happenstance I happened to meet another walk-on on the team at the time, Gary Beemer. He’s another famous walk-on from Florida, now he’s the head strength coach out at Hawaii. He told me to try out, because why the hell not? So I did. And they said no. Sophomore year, I coincidentally ran into Beemer about a month before tryouts were supposed to happen. I didn’t really know whether I planned to try out again (I mean, what were my chances? Come on.).
“But after talking with Beemer, I learned he was now an assistant coach with the team who would be helping to condition the walk-ons. He encouraged me to try out again, I did, and I made it! I don’t know if he pulled any strings for me or not, or gave me a positive review, but I know that he encouraged me to try out, and that’s enough. Beemer is an absolutely great coach, and he’s given me a reason to root for Hawaii now.”
» On how an openly gay player would fare in Florida’s locker room: “Hmm. Wow. There would definitely be guys who were uncomfortable with it. It’s a roster of 100+ guys, everyone has different opinions. But I don’t think it would be ruinous. If you go out there, work hard, don’t take plays off, and do everything you freaking can, you get respect. That’s the bottom line. If he was a starter, then no one could even say anything to him; he’s directly making the Gators a better team. But there would definitely be a ‘getting used to it’ period. And taking showers might get weird. But like I said; I don’t think it would be ruinous.”
» On the best story he has involving senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley: “That dude carries his Chucky doll around EVERYWHERE. The locker room is creepy with the lights off, and it scared the hell out of me one time when it was just sitting in his locker, staring at me. For those who don’t know, our star defensive tackle carries the doll from the movie Chucky around. Chuckie? Whatever, the haunted doll that murders people. It’s like his pet.”
» On the Gators’ offensive philosophy: “Dominance. We want the opposing team to know our play (power), run it anyway, and still gain five yards. Then, because [Brent] Pease is actually an offensive genius that gets too much crap, we line up the same way, defense sees power coming AGAIN, and we throw a quick slant that the receiver can run 80 yards with for a score. Or we toss the deep ball off of play action. Or pitch it to the wide receiver coming on the end around. Keep in mind, I’m not really an expert here. It’s not like the coaches discussed their play calling philosophy with the two-year walk-on. But considering you asked for it, that’s my opinion.”
» On if he ever saw anything sketchy involving Florida players and boosters: “Nothing that I ever saw. The team is CONSTANTLY on us about violations and rules and such. Hell, the walk-ons weren’t even allowed to eat at the team dinner more than once a month because that would apparently be an improper benefit to a non-scholarship player. No booster ever approached the 5’7”. 170-pound walk-on and said, ‘Here ya go, son, keys to a new car.’ I would be very surprised if it was happening in our locker room, or most locker rooms around the country, really. Maybe with some very high level players across the nation, something improper is going on. But I never saw anything like that at all.”
» On head coach Will Muschamp being a walk-on himself: “Keep in mind, he walked on but earned a scholarship in his first year. Dude is a [scholarship player]. Don’t believe otherwise. That being said, he was still nice to us. It’s not like we’re vermin. We’re just not as important to the team as a scholarship starter, and that’s just a fact of how big NCAA football has become.”
» On running out of the tunnel in The Swamp: “Absolutely insane. My very first game (other than the spring game in 2010) I got to lead the team out carrying an American flag because it was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. It gives me chills just thinking about the roar of the crowd and the band playing around us. I don’t think I can adequately put it into words, but it was beyond incredible.”
Schmitt discussed a number of other topics including the life of a walk-on football player, meeting Tim Tebow, Florida’s conditioning program and his military experience. Check out the entire Reddit AMA by clicking here.