Josh Griffis spent many Saturdays in the fall cheering the Florida Gators when he was younger. Growing up in Starke, a small town of 5,449 people, according to the 2010 United States Census, located about 26.5 miles northeast of Gainesville, Griffis was a huge UF fan.
The entire town is full of Gators fans, too.
When he got an offer from UF as a sophomore in September 2017, Griffis pounced and committed to the Gators the next day.
But after Jim McElwain was fired a month later and his staff was departing, things changed for Griffis, who joined Bradenton’s IMG Academy following his sophomore season of high school.
“The new coaching staff changed and it was like a big old ball of confusion,” Griffis said. “I talked to coach [Dan] Mullen and them, but the new defense there, they run a 3-4, I wasn’t really digging their defense.”
So Griffis, a consensus three-star senior defensive end, flipped to another in-state school, Florida State University. The decision didn’t sit well with nonfamily members in Griffis’ hometown.
“It’s real annoying,” Griffis said.
He added, “the real close ones will always support you whatever you do. It’s your choice. It’s not about what your favorite team is, it’s about what’s best for you. ... They’ve never been through the recruiting process. People don’t know how stressful it is. It’s just different. Once you go through it as an athlete, you’ll understand how it all works.”
IMG Academy head coach Kevin Wright said it’s like a refuge for him being at the Bradenton school.
Raymond Woodie is Griffis’ primary recruiter at FSU. Woodie has been on head coach Willie Taggart’s staff since his first head coaching job at Western Kentucky. He followed Taggart to stops at USF and Oregon before Taggart landed his dream job in Tallahassee.
After he was hired, Taggart said he was a big FSU fan growing up in Palmetto, where he later starred for Manatee High School in nearby Bradenton.
Griffis dreamed of playing in the Swamp starring for the Gators. He even has a photo of when he was 3 or 4 years old watching a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville. He will still get that chance, albeit with the rival Seminoles. It’s something that he’s using as motivation.
“I think about it probably every day,” Griffis said. “... When I go there and play, I’m going to feel like everyone’s against me.”