GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida assistant coach Billy Gonzales said his young daughter had the perfect response when she found out the family was moving back to Gainesville, where she had been born during Gonzales’ last stint with the Gators.
“When we found out we were coming back, she came running down — she’s 12 right now — she came down the steps running down and said, ‘Dad, I’m going home, I’m going home!’ ” Gonzales shared while mimicking his daughter’s Gator Chomping reaction. “And I started laughing, I’m like, ‘You don’t even remember any of it.’ But we’re excited.”
It didn’t take long for Gonzales and fellow assistant John Hevesy to “find out” they would be following Dan Mullen on yet another coaching move.
Gonzales, the Gators’ new wide receivers coach, and Hevesy, the offensive line coach, have been Mullen’s co-offensive coordinators the last four seasons, but the pair has mostly been together since joining Urban Meyer’s staff at Bowling Green in 2001.
Hevesy has been with Mullen ever since as both followed Meyer to Utah (2003-04) and Florida (2005-08). Hevesy then headed to Mississippi State when Mullen got the head-coaching job there in 2009. Gonzales also was at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida. He stayed with the Gators for the 2009 season, followed by stints at LSU and Illinois before rejoining Mullen in 2013 at Mississippi State.
They had stayed in touch during those years apart, and when Mullen had an opening and made the call to see if Gonzales wanted to rejoin him, the answer was yes.
Just as when Mullen took the job at Florida back in late November, the answer was a quick yes. It wasn’t but two days later that Gonzales and Hevesy were announced as his first staff hires.
“As soon as he called us and said, ‘Get ready to rock and roll,’ without any hesitation it was, ‘Let’s get ready to go,’ ” Gonzales said. “This is a job where, I’ll be honest with you, some people probably say normally when you move somewhere [you have to] ask your wife and your family, and this was one of these deals, it was, ‘Let’s go.’ “
It’s unique in college football for a set of coaches to develop that kind of familiarity over such a long period of time together. It’s a transient career field by nature, most coaches looking for the next step up the ladder, the next promotion, the next pay raise.
WATCH: Florida WRs coach and co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales meets the media.
Posted by Florida Gators – SEC Country on Thursday, February 15, 2018
Their relationship, meanwhile, evolved organically. All three got their big break together under Meyer, and as Mullen successfully rose up the ranks he’s been able to keep his loyal top lieutenants with him.
As Hevesy recalls, he first crossed paths with Mullen in 1996 when he was an assistant coach at Brown and Mullen was an assistant at fellow Ivy League school Columbia.
Hevesy became a graduate assistant at Syracuse in 1997, while Mullen followed him in the same role in 1998 after Hevesy had returned to Brown.
“So we started actually talking, talking on the phone just because he came in there, ‘Hey, here’s what the transition was going on.’ That was a big thing,” Hevesy said.
Mullen later would work as a GA at Notre Dame in 1999 and 2000, when Meyer was the wide receivers coach.
When Meyer got the top job at Bowling Green in 2001, he brought Mullen with him. Hevesy, who had worked a couple camps at Notre Dame and gotten to know Meyer that way, joined them at Bowling Green as well, along with Gonzales, who had been an assistant coach at Kent State for seven seasons.
With Mullen coaching the quarterbacks, Gonzales the wide receivers, and Hevesy the tackles and tight ends, the three formed a bond that continues today.
“When you start cutting your teeth and as a grunt kind of coming up the system together, you have a lot of time between myself, him and John,” Gonzales said. “With the exception of four years of me being away, we’ve been together for 18 years. And just having an understanding of what he wants done, how he wants it done, you’ve been in those battles, you’ve been in the fire with somebody for that many years, I think you’re on the same page. You guys start thinking alike, you start understanding what’s expected, and I think it’s a little easier, you know, obviously, to communicate when it comes down to situations when you’re in a tough moment.”
Said Hevesy: “R eally, it’s a brotherly love. There’s times we’re going to fight like brothers. There’s times when we all agree. There’s times we can look at each other and I think you look at the offensive room right now, we start looking at each other like, ‘Yeah, we’re good to do this.’ And there’s two or three other guys in the room going, ‘What are they talking about? Because they didn’t say anything and they’re [going] let’s put this in, let’s do this, we did this back here.’ So for the three of us, it’s great because we know kind of what we’re thinking and what we’ve done over all the years. …
“I was the only one married in 2001. Billy got married, Danny got married, so all our kids were all born together, so it’s three families that are, we’re like brothers.”
Gonzales seconded Hevesy’s sentiments, saying the term “family” often gets thrown around loosely among coaches, in recruiting, etc., but he feels it’s a very real dynamic that’s developed over his time with Mullen and Hevesy.
And when the call came to return to Gainesville, both used the same term — “no-brainer.”
WATCH: Florida OL coach and co-offensive coordinator John Hevesy speaks with the local media for the first time since his hiring. Follow along live.
Posted by Florida Gators – SEC Country on Thursday, February 15, 2018
Meanwhile, in addition to familiarity and shared experience, there’s another common thread that binds the three — confidence and sky-high expectations.
Hevesy and Gonzales were meeting with the local media Thursday for the first time since their hiring, and it’s no coincidence they sounded a lot like their boss.
Hevesy talked about wanting his guys to compete in everything they do, from the classroom to the weight room to the practice field. It was a page straight out of Mullen’s talking-points playbook.
And Gonzales set the bar high for his position group when he said, “I’m as hungry as anybody to have a 1,000-yard receiver here again.” That hasn’t happened at Florida since 2002, for what it’s worth.
That bullish confidence matches the tone Mullen has set from the day he arrived, stating that he had high expectations for 2018 and has reiterated multiple times how he expects Florida to compete for national championships.
After all, the last time those three were here in Gainesville together, that’s what they did, contributing on Meyer’s staff to the Gators’ 2006 and 2008 national titles.
“We left on a really high note and we’re going to continue to bring it back here on a high note,” Hevesy said. “… Y ou can’t ask for anything better because we all know what the ultimate goal is. We have the same goals, the same ambitions in terms of what we’re trying to do with the program. And we’ve done it, whether it was at Bowling Green, Utah, here before, at Mississippi State or now back here again. It’s ‘Here’s what we’ve got to do.’ “
Said Gonzales: “Now it’s just time to go execute, and … the ultimate goal here is to win championships — not just SEC championships but national championships.”
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