Thursday July 4, 2013 Driskel signs with Red Sox but don't worry Gator fans, he's still your starting quarterback
Updated: 1:48pm, July 4
Updated: 1:48pm, July 4
Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel signed with the Red Sox, but don't worry, he's not running off to Boston.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Gators starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was a standout center fielder at Hagerty High in Oviedo and also the school's starting quarterback.
Driskel had two-sport options coming out of high school and he took a step toward ensuring options after college by signing with the Boston Red Sox late Wednesday.
However, before you cancel your Fourth of July cookout trying to figure out what this means for the Gators this season, you can relax and still plan on grilling those steaks later.
Driskel isn't going anywhere.
"Yes I signed with the Red Sox,'' Driskel tweeted Thursday morning. "Nothing changes. I am still a full-time student-athlete at UF, fully committed to playing football."
About an hour later, the UF football Twitter account tweeted more comments from Driskel.
"I plan on focusing on football and finishing my college career with the Gators,'' Driskel said. "After my college football career is over I want to pursue a professional career in the NFL.
"If I ever decide I want to play baseball, I want to play with the Boston Red Sox who drafted me in the recent draft."
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Red Sox selected Driskel in the 29th round of last month's MLB amateur draft.
And Driskel's signing on Wednesday was also a surprise.
However, it's also a wise move should Driskel's football career flame out and he decides to return to the diamond.
Driskel wasn't just your average baseball player.
In this story on Driskel last fall, his baseball coach at Hagerty, Jered Goodwin, marveled as some of the skills Driskel showed on Hagerty's team and the AAU summer team Goodwin coached.
Goodwin said scouts told him Driskel could have been a first-round pick in the baseball draft if he had not made it known he planned to play football for the Gators.
Goodwin shared a memorable story about Driskel from one of Hagerty's batting practice sessions.
"He started getting in a groove and he hit a ball in the middle of the softball field, which is probably 50 feet, 60 feet back of the baseball field,’’ Goodwin said. “And then there’s probably a 50-foot fence that he hit it over. We tape-measured it at 477 [feet], and he did that when he was 15 years old. We actually got the tape measure out and tracked to where it actually landed. That’s not a guess. It’s a pretty accurate reading.”
Florida baseball coach Kevin O'Sullivan understands why MLB teams showed such an interest in Driskel. He did, too.
"The same skill set you see on the football field is what he brought on the baseball field,’’ O’Sullivan said last fall. “He’s a special athlete in the sense that he’s a big, physical athlete that can run. You look out on the field and he sticks out. He’s a prototypical five-tool athlete in baseball. He’s got power, he can hit, he can run, he can throw. That’s basically him in nutshell.”
According to reports out of Boston, the Red Sox wanted to secure Driskel's rights just in case this football thing doesn't work out.
For longtime Gators fans, you may remember another prominent UF quarterback signing a pro baseball contract during his college years.
Doug Johnson was the second player ever picked in the MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, taken in the second round of the Rays' inaugural draft in 1996.
Johnson played professionally for two summers during college but stuck with football and spent time in the NFL.