Kelvin Taylor is no stranger to the bright lights in the Swamp.
The all-time leading rusher in FHSAA history and son of former Gator Fred Taylor participated in Friday Night Lights last year.
With the annual summer camp starting Friday night, Taylor decided against working out and instead planned to soak in the atmosphere he enjoyed his first time around.
“It felt like you were playing in the Swamp. The lights were lit up bright. They had the jumbotron out there on,” Taylor said. “It felt like a real atmosphere. It’s a very nice camp. Every year it gets better.”
Last year was the first Friday Night Lights for Will Muschamp.
Former UF coach Urban Meyer started the camp in 2005.
Friday Night Lights developed into a recruiting staple with other schools such as Georgia, Florida State and Ohio State creating their own versions.
There isn’t anything like it today though, according to Derek Tyson of GatorNationESPN.com. He called Friday Night Lights the marquee event for summer camps.
“It’s one night where you can turn on the music, you can turn on the video boards and have all the top prospects into one place to really showcase your program,” Tyson said.
Prospects attending Friday range from rising sophomores to rising seniors. Players like 2014 Bayside High School defensive tackle Travonte Valentine (Palm Bay, Fla.) get another opportunity in front of FBS coaches.
Valentine, who holds a UF offer, listed Florida and Florida State as his leaders. The 6-foot-3, 283-pound tackle visited FSU last weekend.
“This is something that will really show my real talents,” he said. “Hopefully I can really come out on top. I’ve been dominant at every camp I’ve been too.”
For the UF coaches, catering to uncommitted 2013 expected attendees like safety Marcell Harris (Orlando) and defensive end DeMarcus Walker (Jacksonville, Fla.) becomes easier with the entire 2013 class in attendance.
“You can hear coach speak stuff from the coaches. They can tell you all you want, ‘Our school is the greatest,’ this and that,” Tyson said. “The fact is when you hear from the other recruits and the other guys who are going through the same process that you’re going through and you can hear why they chose Florida, I think that weighs more on them than anything else in the whole process. It’s huge to have all the commits down there at one time.”
These players have built a strong bond, whether through Twitter or at other camps like The Opening at NIKE headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., where seven UF commits were in attendance. When the commits get together, the conversation is simple.
“We are talking about the Swamp, man,” Taylor said. “Talking about when our time comes about winning national championships.”
Taylor arrives in Gainesville Thursday. He’ll get a glimpse of his future Friday night, but Taylor isn’t overthinking anything.
“I am just going to relax and have fun. Try to recruit some other guys and have a great time with the coaching staff.”