Will Grier: Jim McElwain didn’t want me, told me to leave the Florida Gators

By Adam Silverstein
October 13, 2016
Will Grier: Jim McElwain didn’t want me, told me to leave the Florida Gators

In a first-person diary entry published by Bleacher Report on Thursday, former Florida Gators quarterback Will Grier details his departure from the program. And while he places blame for his suspension squarely on his own shoulders, he claims that the reason he is no longer with Florida is because head coach Jim McElwain basically forced him off the team.

First, the explanation for his suspension.

Because Austin [Hardin] and I were obsessed with eating healthy, we noticed that those Gatorade drinks are loaded with sugar and carbs. There’s nothing wrong with them, but we didn’t want that in our bodies. So we went to a store in Gainesville called Total Nutrition and got some protein powder. We used that for a few months, and it seemed to work. I was putting on smart weight and was feeling healthier and more fit than I ever had. The third time we went in to buy the powder, in June 2015, the associate behind the counter, who knew us because we had been in there before, said, “You guys should try this.” It was called Ligandrol.

He said it was a new thing that helped your muscles take in more protein and helped them recover faster. So we went home, and the first thing we did was look on the internet. We’re not stupid; we wanted to look it up and make sure it was all clear. I looked at every NCAA site, and many other sites, to see if it was healthy for you. I wasn’t going to put anything in my body that wasn’t legal and wasn’t healthy. I checked each ingredient on the bottle to see if it was on the NCAA banned list. I did my research and was confident in it. What I didn’t do is ask the trainers at Florida if it was cleared. I still don’t know why I didn’t. It’s no one’s fault but mine.

OK, now to Grier’s departure from the Gators.

“I read in stories that I left the team, that it was my decision,” he writes. “It wasn’t. Coach McElwain was telling the media that I was eligible to practice with the team, while telling me I didn’t need to be around the team at this time. It felt like I was being pushed away by Florida.

Grier, as you may remember, took some time away from the Gators while the season was still going on. McElwain explained that it was Grier’s choice to go home to North Carolina, particularly since there was not much he could do to help Florida win games, but that he would be welcomed back with open arms upon his return.

Prior reports had Grier’s return not going as all parties envisioned it. Grier and his father supposedly met with McElwain and asked for a guarantee that Grier would regain the starting job upon his return from suspension — six games into the 2016 season — at which point McElwain supposedly said he would not give any guarantees and became upset that Grier would even ask such a thing. The Griers were reportedly not pleased to not receive a guarantee.

Here’s how that transpired, according to Grier.

Grier says he and his father met with McElwain in November but the coach was two hours late to the meeting because “he was out recruiting Feleipe Franks.” He also claims “nothing could be further from the truth” in regards to his demand of a guarantee to start and that their side of the table acted in “the exact opposite way.”

I said, the exact quote, “I just want to know what your plans are for the future. Are you going to bring in more guys? Am I a guy you don’t see playing here in the future?” He said, “You’re welcome here in the future, you’re a Gator, but I’m not telling you my plans. I’m not giving you any guarantees.”

That answer does not sound like a particularly bad one from McElwain. In fact, it appears to go along with what was reported at the time of Grier’s transfer.

Grier says a second meeting with McElwain was set up as a last-ditch effort to see what Grier could do to “make it work” at Florida. He claims that took a negative turn, too.

He finally ended up saying, “Maybe a fresh start isn’t the worst thing.” He said that, and I said, “So I guess that’s the move.”

Grier says “it was obvious [McElwain] didn’t want me [to remain at Florida]” and he “will never understand why.” He goes on to note that “I never thought McElwain appreciated anything I did,” saying that a coach who did appreciate him “would’ve done anything to get me ready to play for the next year” and not the opposite. McElwain said he would allow a transfer to any school outside of the SEC and “was very helpful after that, once he knew I was leaving.”

McElwain actually responded to a Bleacher Report inquiry into his actions here, but as he is wont to do, failed to actually address the specific questions with his replies. He did, however, appear to note that there were more twists and turns in the story than Grier is letting on.

On pushing for Grier to transfer, he said, “I want nothing but the best for all of these guys. WVU is the best for him. That’s what should be the focus. I will protect him until the end. I’m not going to go into how many times the stories change or the different wiggles it took. I understand the dynamics and pressure he’s under. … I’m glad he found a home. I feel horrible about what occurred. I’m excited that he has a place where he can go make a difference.”

So that puts a bow on Grier’s tenure with the Gators. He has gotten in what will likely be the last word, and for a Florida coach whose recruiting has been subpar by his team’s standards to this point, McElwain may have some extra work to do out on the trail to combat some of the negativity that may be brought up now that Grier has written this about his former coach.


  1. cline says:

    updated title based on my impression of the quotes,

    Will Grier: I felt like Jim McElwain didn’t want me, and wanted me to leave the Florida Gators

  2. DC Gator says:

    Hindsight always being 20-20. Here we are about to play the first game Grier would have been able to play with an offense that is far from firing on all cylinders, with Del Rio still being a big question mark in general and specifically with the knee injury. Obviously, we have the team we have, and we’re going to go out there fight, but it’s hard not to think what the offense would be like with Grier still at the helm. I like Del Rio, and think we can still do big things with him but it’s hard not to think about what could have been with Grier. There’s no denying the kid had something special. ah well…such is life…Let’s go out and beat Mizzou this week and get this season back on track.

  3. KB says:

    I read the article on BR and very interesting. Although his side and account is very good information to have for fans like you and I Adam; it doesn’t change the fact he is not with UF this season and nothing can be done about that. Just unfortunate is all I have to say.

  4. OBgator says:

    Looks like some miscommunication about how Will felt vs. how Coach Mac wanted Will to act. I doubt Coach Mac would want to push out Will, but could see how he must recruit stud QBs every year and can’t ever give a guarantee except a chance to compete for a starting job.

    I feel like Florida has been snake bit with its QBs, and Grier (although looking back at his numbers didn’t show anything spectacular save 1 or 2 games) could have developed into something truly special. I really liked Grier’s quick release, and think he would have flourished with better Oline play. It’s hard to imagine we could have him starting this week if he had stayed or not gotten pushed out…depending on who you want to believe.

  5. Fatback says:

    I’m not sold on Coach Mac yet but I think he did the right thing in pushing Grier out. A great talent and I believe it was in fact a stupid mistake by a good kid but had he remained with Florida he would be known as “the guy that did drugs”, the rest of his career there. Right or wrong, that stigma would always be there. (Even now at WV he will be known as the guy that did drugs at Florida). How do you expect the rest of the team to follow that guy as their leader? Not to mention the ridicule we’d have gotten from every other team we play. As a first-year coach do you want to build your program around that image? No, you move on…this isn’t Auburn. I don’t blame Coach Mac and in fact I think he was being nice by going with the cold shoulder approach and not telling him to just get the F out.

    • Marc says:

      Totally agree. No matter how it was handled, him staying at UF would have left a stain on his career and the program. Now both will rise or fall on their own.

      My question is what was the point of the article/essay? To prop himself up? To get back into the spotlight? To throw Mac under the bus? I just don’t really understand what he wanted to accomplish by publishing this.

      • Michael Jones says:

        The obvious answer is that he wanted to correct the rumors that he is the kind of guy who would go into Mac’s office and give him an ultimatum. . . or that he was the kind of guy who didn’t have what it took to fight for and win back his starting position. According to him he just wanted an assurance that he would be given a fair shot and was still in Mac’s future plans. What’s wrong with that?

        He wanted to clear his reputation. Not hard to figure out. And I don’t see him throwing Mac or anybody else under the bus. He just wanted to be sure that he wasn’t thrown under the bus any longer by Gator Nation. Of course, he has no idea how hard that is, does he?

    • Michael Jones says:

      Okay what “drug” exactly did Will Grier do? A supplement that you or I could go into a health food store right now and buy? Legally? We’ve kept players in our program who have actually done REAL drugs, multiple times, got caught for it, suspended for it, and still loved them. One beloved player on our team used for a defense to a rape charge that he was too baked the night before a bowl game to be interested in sex. . THE NIGHT BEFORE A BOWL GAME. . and exactly how baked does a teenage boy have to be to not be interested in sex? But we still love him. You’re telling me we couldn’t have still loved Grier?

      Give me a break. I’m not buying for a second that Grier would have been or is now labeled a “drug” user for using an OTC supplement or that he somehow leaving was good for the program or McElwain’s only option. What happened sucks and apparently the way it was handled also sucks.

      As for WVA, all they are doing is counting their lucky stars and the days left on the calendar before Will Grier can finally take the field. One more excellent QB that we have run off. That’s the bottom line.

      • Matt says:

        Absolutely Michael Jones…The idea that Grier is tarnished goods and had to go is just another attempted diversion. Gator fans are in denial about that situation. They minimize (he only played 4 good quarters), scapegoat (he needed to be out of here, he was a problem), and shift blame, misstate facts, and justify (Mcelwain did the right thing because Grier wanted a guarantee) he didnt..Just wanted to feel valued and appreciated, because he never was by Mcelwain..Grier was headed for greatness, and could have resumed to that level this week here at Florida!!! This week! He should be starting tomorrow, but Mcelwain all but told him to leave!! He was our QB Mcelwain, not yours, the Gators QB!! He earned the right to be respected for his performance, and you crapped on him, like you do so many players. Now he is gone, and soon you will be too..

  6. SW FL Joe says:

    After watching Hardin kick last year, I doubt he put anything in his body that could be considered “performance enhancing”. And you can bet your last dollar that right after Will plays his next game, the NCAA will be there to drug test him and all the other WVU players. We don’t need the NCAA, SEC or anybody else showing up after each game “random testing” the team for the next few years because of what one bonehead did.

  7. Justin says:

    What about the cocaine? I don’t see that mentioned in the article.

  8. South Bleachers says:

    I believed from the moment this happened that Grier would be pushed out regardless of the public statements made. The suspension put McElwain in a corner. How was he supposed to develop a QB competition if they knew they would have been temps?

  9. Michael Jones says:

    I have no idea what happened behind closed doors and I’m not sure which account I believe. . often the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Not that either one is necessarily lying. Two people can give different accounts of one event and both believe they are telling the truth.

    Grier was special. Loved watching him play. I hate that we don’t have him but we don’t. I think Del Rio could be special too. We’ll see.

    • Matt says:

      I like Luke Del Rio, he is knowledgble, competent and has solid qb skills but he does not have the physical tools of Grier. Just setting aside Grier’s arm talent, his scrambling and running ability is far superior, no knock agaisnt Luke, he like many, doesn’t have that skill set. Grier could do a standing back flip!! Grier’s talent is further demonstrated by criticism of Florida’s OLINE since he left, when Grier was playing everyone praised the OLine, since then they “struggle” even though they have much more experience now..Grier was a RS Freshman, in a new offense, with an inexperienced offensive line and playing for a coach and OC that has little if any offensive success without him. Everyone points to information heading the other way, they say Grier had just 2 good games or just a few quarters to minimize his talent in an effort to minimize the sting of him leaving. He is a special player, quick release, stood tall in the pocket, knew where to go with the football, accurate, smart, scrambling and running ability when they play breaks down, he would have been a top 3 QB in the SEC. Look at how Eason has struggled, as a freshman, and he is a 5 star talent, playing well as freshman in the SEC is very, very hard and when a player does, you nurture and value his talent, you dont dismiss it. What is wrong with Mcelwain? That was a devastating blow to Gator football, devastating!! Mcelwain made it happen. Mcelwain failed to recognize that he was a key the whole time, I can’t believe how arrogant and frankly stupid Mcelwain is. He was given, emphasis on GIVEN (he didn’t recruit him) a great player and crapped all over him..Wait till we see what Grier does at West Virginia, he will be all conference or much more..

      • Michael Jones says:

        Matt, I agree with everything you said about Grier and probably more. He was also very courageous. I’ll never forget the backfoot deep post he threw for a touchdown against Ole Miss with Nkdemiche and other highly-regarded D-line bearing down on him and about to blow him up. He didn’t care. . he stood in there like a man beyond his years and threw a 40 yd strike. Listen, it was for me a sad day as well when first Grier was suspended, second the NCAA upheld the length of the suspension and then my shock when he left the program. You’re right, Luke is good, but at this point no Will Grier. . very few are.

  10. Oldflyer says:

    Does McElwaine ever give a straight answer to anything?

    The writer should have pursued the status of the junk he took. Did he really do the research? Was the NCAA information so obscure that a reasonable person could not find it? Did the Trainers actually know that it was banned? That would be nice to know since Grier was excoriated on the internet for not consulting them.

    It would be interesting to see an article on banned substances. Is the NCAA like the government and shot guns regulations and dictates to the point that no one can actually keep up with them?

  11. Matt says:

    Will Grier stated he wanted to stay at Florida and win National Championships. Sounds great to me!! Will Grier completed 66% of his passes as freshman. A freshman! 10 passing TD, 2 rushing TD’s, 3 INT one of which was a perfect throw that was dropped. He was 24 of 29 for 271 yds and 4 TDS against Ole Miss..The Gators were 6-0. I said this over the summer that Grier left because of Mcelwain not appreciating him.. Other posters called me “all kinds of stupid” for saying that on Alligator Army.com they ridiculed my assertion including Andy Hutchins, the writer for AA, who stated Grier leaving had nothing to do with Mcelwain, well you were wrong and I was correct as Grier stated that is exactly why he left. Read my comments are under username “UFtoATL” in an (approx) June 21st blog entitled “Mcelwain ranked as 30th Head Coach” paraphrased. They rejected my hypothosis and threw insults and stated how stupid and naive I was. No!!You were, I know what I am talking about, proved it because I called it months ago.. Mcelwain lied to the media that Grier was allowed to be at practice, he wasn’t allowed..Grier is a special talent, he wasa a University of Florida player, not a Jim Mcelwain player. Mcelwain has and continues to make this team worse. He has done nothing he was hired to do, he is a manipulator, he isn’t well liked guys..Players don’t like the guy, the media doesn’t really like him, although they can’t say it. He is often times a jerk… Recently he has called out and insulted Florida’s best players, critical of Scarlett, the best running back. Implied that Caleb Brantley was faking an injury, as he stated “I don’t know what his deal is” then later denied he had an issue with him on a follow up question by Edgar Thompson. He has called the offensive line “dead fish”, berated Kelvin Taylor, “be a man”, he is Coach.. Said the team was playing poorly because of pressure felt by their families, as if Florida players are the only players with families. He accuses the players of being selfish, unmotivated, undisciplined but offers no solutions to the issues he brings up, just we’ll see, apparently it doesn’t occur to him that a coaches job is to get players mentally ready to play.. He takes no accountability, just throws it at the players. His act is being exposed..He has long ago exposed it to me, others are slow to catch on..LSU bought him another distraction and delay, this dude is running out of excuses…Will Grier is the ONLY reason, that the Gators went 10-4 last year, without him they would have won 6 of 7 games. Seems like Mcelwain would have been smart enough to keep him around, he wasn’t. Mcelwain needed Grier more the Grier needed Mcelwain, time will prove that..It already is..

    • Matt says:

      correction 6 or 7 games…I wish my device wouldn’t change what I write…thanks Samsung, at least it hasn’t burst into flames..

  12. Rakkasan says:

    I used to believe in Mac, but after two very weak recruiting classes, questionable game day coaching, and the early departures of top players, I expect Mac to have a very short tenure at UF.

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