John Huggins

Former UF football player John Huggins allegedly choked a female tutor in October. 

A family is alleging former UF football player John Huggins raped an underage teenager earlier this year when he was still with the program.

The rape allegation against Huggins and its timing — just weeks before UF’s season opener against Miami — offers new insights into his mysterious departure from Florida’s football program.

At a press conference on Aug. 6, Florida football coach Dan Mullen said he had “great clarity” on when defensive back Huggins would return to training camp from what the team called a “family issue.” 

The grandmother of the alleged victim spelled out the allegations in an email to university officials, athletic officials and reporters the next day, describing the circumstances of the alleged rape. 

Three days later, Huggins was dismissed from the team. 

Huggins — who played in eight games as a freshman for UF last season as a reserve defensive back and a member of special teams — transferred to Robert Morris University (a private FCS college near Pittsburgh) earlier this month and is listed on the team’s roster

He could not be reached for comment for this story — The Alligator attempted to reach him multiple times through Instagram, but he blocked the reporter’s account. 

The grandmother’s email was sent in response to a report from the Tampa Bay Times after Mullen’s press conference on Aug. 6 revealing that Huggins was accused of choking a female tutor in October 2018. Mullen said he was aware of it at the conference but said it had “been handled,” referring to Huggins’ five-game absence in the aftermath of last season’s allegation.

The Alligator is not identifying the grandmother in order to protect the privacy of the alleged rape victim. The newspaper subsequently interviewed the young woman, who corroborated the events in the email and described what happened.

The grandmother said she was reaching out to “as many people at the University of Florida as I can, to ensure my voice is heard by at least one person.”

An incident report was filed, but charges were never pressed against Huggins due to a lack of evidence, according to the grandmother’s email.

The Alligator obtained a copy of the report using the incident number provided by the family. Due to the Florida Public Records Law, the report is almost entirely redacted except for the time, date and location of the alleged incident. The name of the accused perpetrator is redacted in the report.

Ron Kozlowski, Huggins’ attorney, declined to discuss the rape allegation or the redacted police incident report filed in the case. (Kozlowski also represents former UF Resident Assistant Ian Milaski, who was recently charged with attempted sexual battery against a student.) 

Kozlowski said the former Florida player’s dismissal from the team was a mutual agreement, and Huggins told the team right before he was dismissed that he intended to transfer to a different university because of “all the attention.”

The team told Huggins it would be best to move on because of certain student conduct issues, in regards to the choking incident as well as marijuana that was found in Huggins’ apartment in 2018, Kozlowski said.

“To my understanding, there’s no event that occurred that precipitated the timing of [Huggins’ dismissal],” Kozlowski said. 

When asked about the email that was sent, Kozlowski said, “I don’t think it’s good for anybody to comment on … what amounts to an anonymous social media posting.” 

He also said he had “nothing to say” on the redacted incident report.

The incident allegedly occurred in January of this year in a small town the family asked to not be made public to avoid retribution. The family said Huggins was left alone with the girl after hanging out in a group setting on the night of the alleged incident.

Huggins, listed at 6-foot-1, 206 pounds on last year’s UF football roster (twice the weight of the alleged victim), is accused of “pulling her back and [holding] her down with his hand around her neck” when she tried to leave, according to the email.

Then, the young woman said, he raped her. 

The grandmother said Huggins had “made sexual advances” toward the woman before. An Instagram post sent to The Alligator showed an account named “jhugg26” saying he wished he was the inanimate object the girl was leaning against.

The Instagram account’s description says “John Huggins” and “RMU Defensive Back” in the bio as of Thursday night and is followed by the official UF football Instagram.

The young woman said she still thinks about the alleged incident regularly. 

“I feel numb,” she told The Alligator.

The Florida football team did not give an immediate reason for Huggins’ dismissal. When asked why Huggins was dismissed from the team, Mullen said it was for “not living up to what we expect of the Gator standard,” at a press conference. Mullen could not be reached for comment for this story.

Team spokesperson Steve McClain, the football program’s senior associate athletics director, used that quote from Mullen when asked for comment on the relation between the email and Huggins’ dismissal.

Robert Morris University Assistant Athletic Director and team spokesperson James Duzyk, Jr. gave the following statement on Huggins to The Alligator:

“RMU Athletics has not been made aware of a rape allegation that involves John Huggins. It has been brought to our attention that John was included in an allegation that violated university policy, but it is our understanding that this event was not related to sexual assault. To our knowledge, John Huggins satisfied all of the University of Florida’s disciplinary requirements. John is currently a student-athlete receiving athletic aid at RMU.”

Dana Cassidy contributed to this report.

Sam Campisano is the sports editor of The Alligator. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017, and previously covered men's golf, swimming, soccer and women's basketball.