UF’s three amigos rebuilding program
Like any CEO, UF coach Dan Mullen has to guard against fraternizing with his employees, even when some of them are his closest friends.
The days of a quick beer after work or weekend cookout are not as common as when he also was an assistant coach.
“Now as the head coach you’re not always included in all the social events when everybody gets together,” Mullen shared. “That’s the negative part of being the head coach sometimes.”
John Hevesy is not having it.
Instead, Hevesy sees an opening to have at Mullen, whom he has known for more than 20 years and worked with at four different schools. They’ve been together the past nine seasons at Mississippi State and now two stints at UF.
“Is he being a baby?” Hevesy said, using a small child’s voice. “Potty pants … Poopy pants with the writer.”
A little later, Hevesy shares the same joke and a laugh with Billy Gonzales, his co-offensive coordinator on the Gators’ staff and the third leg of a coaching tripod that dates to December 2000 at Bowling Green under Urban Meyer.
In the halls of UF’s football complex, this is how it goes most days. On Mullen’s staff, there is as much giving as taking on a coaching staff that is like family.
“You’re like brothers that work together,” Hevesy said. “We’re going to have our arguments, we’re going to have our laughs. But in the end, we know the ultimate goal.”
Rising in the coaching ranks can be a nomadic, solitary pursuit.
Instead, Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales have made the journey together, supported each other and enjoyed considerable success along the way.
“If you look at guys that have been together for a long time, it doesn’t happen very often — not in college football,” Gonzales said. “It UF coach Dan Mullen, left, offensive line coach John Hevesy and receivers coach Billy Gonzales.
is unique. It’s been awesome, to be honest with you.”
Mullen and Hevesy first spoke on the phone in 1997 when Hevesy was a graduate assistant at Syracuse and Mullen was in line to succeed him.
Little did either realize that a year earlier they had been on opposing sidelines when Mullen coached wide receivers at Columbia and Hevesy coached the offensive line at Brown.
Eventually, Mullen and Hevesy joined forces in December 2000 on Meyer’s staff at Bowling Green. A few months later, Gonzales arrived from Kent State as receivers coach, beginning a slow, steady rise by Meyer and his lieutenants to the pinnacle of college football and a pair of national championships at UF.
Over the years, Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales coached some of the sport’s best players and brought out the best in each other.
“It’s hard; coaching’s hard,” Gonzales said. “You work long hours. You’re in a room from 6 a.m. until sometimes 11 or midnight. You’d better enjoy working with the guys you’re working with. If not, that’s a heck of a long day.
“But it’s all worked out pretty darn good.”
The Gators’ “Three Amigos” now look to revive a program and resurrect an offense that thrived when they were last in Gainesville together.
Whether they succeed or not, Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales will be on the
Most of the other members of the offensive staff are not strangers, either.
Running backs coach Greg Knox is in his 10th season with Mullen while quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson worked with Mullen at Utah in 2004 and later coached at Mississippi State.
“I’ve known those guys since I was 16, so almost half of my life,” the 31-year-old Johnson said. “They have been together longer than some of them have been married. It’s a very unique room.
“Everything is very seamless and natural and we know what we want to do and we know what we need to do in order to be successful. It just works.”
The rite of passage into Mullen’s circle can be a bit challenging.
Tight ends coach Larry Scott, an eighth-grader in Sebring when Mullen, Hevesy and Gonzales arrived at Bowling Green, is the newcomer to the staff. At times, Scott can feel lost as Mullen and his staff recall plays that worked in games more than a dozen years ago.
Johnson, Mullen said, often serves as the interpreter.
“It’ll be a conversation and I’ll bring a specific, like whatever we’re talking about — we put in a shovel pass or something — I’ll go, ‘That was 2004, Utah vs. North Carolina, boom,’” Johnson said. “And we’ll have that conversation.”
Florida State wide receiver Nyqwan Murray has a close bond with his grandmother, Annie Collin.