UF’s three ami­gos re­build­ing pro­gram

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Edgar Thomp­son Staff writer

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

same page.

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.”

AN­NIE COLLIN/COURTESY

Florida State wide re­ceiver Nyqwan Mur­ray has a close bond with his grand­mother, An­nie Collin.

KELLY STREETER/UAA COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS

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