Following an incident in the early morning of April 5th, 2007, Florida Offensive Lineman Ronnie Wilson was kicked off of the team. The police reports say that Ronnie Wilson spit on and slapped Francis Fuller at a local night club in Gainesville. Francis Fuller then got in his car and followed Ronnie Wilson's car while he called 911 in order to report the incident to the Gainesville Police Department. Ronnie Wilson realized that he was being followed, so he pulled over into a parking lot and discharged a weapon into the air in order to intimidate and scare away Francis Fuller. Ronnie Wilson later pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and discharging a firearm in public. He was punished with two years of probation and 100 hours of community service.
Many sources say that Ronnie Wilson fired an AK-47 into the air, but that is just a rumor that is probably fueled by rival schools who want to talk a little smack about the Gators. It is surprising that that version of the story actually found its way to the press, but I guess hearing about AK-47s will sell more papers. The truth is that Ronnie Wilson actually fired a .22 and not an AK-47. And that was a weapon that he legally purchased, and kept at a friend's off-campus residence so that he was following the University's no guns on campus policy. It is just not believable that Ronnie Wilson was carrying an AK-47, and any credible and informed journalist would not publish such a farfetched story.
An investigation found evidence that Ronnie Wilson may have been acting in self-defense, but a controversial Florida Law, called the "Stand Your Ground Law" by its proponents and the "Shoot First Law" by its opponents, states that Ronnie Wilson's reaction of discharging a weapon into the air was inappropriate for the situation.
Ronnie Wilson was a starter on the Offensive Line for the 2006 national championship team, and it was a big blow at the time for the Gators. Ronnie Wilson was one of the two starting offensive linemen that the Gators lost in that offseason for a reason other than graduating or going to the NFL. The other loss was second team All-SEC Phil Trautwein. Ronnie Wilson was kicked off of the team indefinitely by coach Urban Meyer following the incident. Ronnie Wilson had violated the team rule of having no guns, and what he did was an embarrassment to the football program.
Urban Meyer did not kick Ronnie Wilson off of the team permanently, but he demanded a lot from Ronnie Wilson in order for him to get back on the team after a one year suspension from the team. Ronnie Wilson would then be allowed back on the team depending on whether or not he met the lofty demands of Urban Meyer. Some of those things include completing his 100 hours of community service, maintaining a GPA of at least a 3.0, and staying in football shape among other things. He will most likely make a return, but the real question is "when is that going to happen?"
Despite the lofty demands of Meyer, it seems as if Ronnie Wilson is getting close to being ready to join the team. He may end up helping at the defensive tackle position because, despite being a former starter on the offensive line, the coaches think that he has more potential as a defensive tackle, where the Gators need a lot of help right now. It would be great news for the Gators if Wilson returns for this upcoming season because he is a monster that can make a real difference.
It is great to see a young man like Ronnie Wilson get a second chance and turn around his life, but this story shows how Urban Meyer is one of the few coaches out there that realizes that there are more important things than winning football games. The standard that Urban Meyer holds his players to surely is what separates the Florida football program from so many other football programs out there. Urban Meyer has sent a clear message: If you do not have priorities straight, then you will not play football for the Gators. There is no coach in the country that holds his players to a higher standard of discipline and academics. That is evident with a team GPA of over a 2.8, and the number of talented football players that he has punished severely.
It does not matter if your name is Joe Shmo, Tim Tebow, Ronnie Wilson, Marcus Thomas, or Jamar Hornsby. You will not play if your grades or lifestyle are not up to his standards. Starters do not get special treatment and Urban Meyer is not afraid or intimidated to kick off a star player or a key contributor as he has proved with Ronnie Wilson, Jamar Hornsby, and Marcus Thomas. Urban Meyer just wants to have the assurance that he did everything that he could to teach his young men how to be well behaved responsible men, and giving Ronnie Wilson a second chance after turning his life around is something else that he can do for one of his players.
Some people may see the way that Urban Meyer deals with his players as cut-throat and merciless, but I guarantee you that is not the way that Urban Meyer sees it. I believe that the best way to sum Meyer's philosophy when it comes to disciplining his players is stated in Proverbs 13:24:
"He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him."
Now, just to be clear, I am in no way insinuating that Urban Meyer beats his players. All I am saying is that Urban Meyer is willing to hit them where it hurts, and taking football away does that, in order to get them to care about living the ways that Urban Meyer is trying to teach them.
Urban Meyer has said that he treats his football players as if they were his children, and he has proven it in the way that he disciplines them. A lot of coaches will talk the talk when it comes to caring about their players and doing what is best for them in the long run, but actions speak louder than words. It speaks volumes about how much Meyer cares about his players when he is willing to discipline his players to the degree that he has knowing that his team may not be as good as it could be. And he does this in the cut-throat environment of the SEC, where your team's performance depends on whether or not you will keep your job.
All you have to do is look to the School Out West to see how differently Meyer does things. The way that Bobby Bowden and FSU dealt with Preston Parker was completely different. Preston Parker was facing drug and gun charges and only got suspended for a couple of games, while Ronnie Wilson faces gun charges and was suspended from the team for a year. The difference is astounding and shocking, and it is really unfair when you think about it. That may come across as an excuse that Florida could be a better football team if Urban Meyer started praying for misdemeanors and giving out 1 or 2 game suspensions for offenses like the one that Ronnie Wilson committed, which is probably true, but actually it is unfair for all of the other players in the country that do not have a coach that will hold them to as a high of a standard as Meyer does. Simply put, it is unfair that Ronnie Wilson and the rest of the Florida team have a coach that cares enough to discipline them to the extent that Meyer does, when Meyer knows that his team will be worse as a result of it.