GAINESVILLE, Fla .– He is said to be the coach of a trainer. They say his hobbies are few, his attention to detail is great. They say he enjoys the process of developing a schedule as much as practicing a big game on a Saturday afternoon.
They say all of this and more about Billy Napier, 42, who officially became Florida’s next head coach on Sunday afternoon.
Napier’s pedigree is impressive.
He worked under Dabo Swinney in Clemson and Nick Saban in Alabama. He did a brief stint with Jimbo Fisher’s team at Florida State. These are three of four active university head coaches to win a national championship. The other is Mack Brown.
He knows what victory looks like on the pitch and behind the scenes. They say he took a lot of notes.
Napier was born to coach. He’s been around the game his whole life.
“I wanted to do what my dad did,” Napier said recently athleticism.
Napier grew up in Chatsworth, Georgia, at the foot of Fort Mountain in the upstate. His father, the late Bill Napier, was the head coach of Murray County High. The elder Napier, who died of Lou Gehrig’s illness in 2017, was a local celebrity known as “Coach Bill” in the Chatsworth and Murray County area.
When the local community rallied around Coach Bill in his final days, the locals showered him with love.
“Coach Bill is a great person,” his neighbor Chris Townsend told the local newspaper. “He’s what you want your child to be when he grows up.”
When Coach Bill’s son left home, he went to Furman University, where Napier was a two-time All-Southern Conference quarterback. He led the Paladins to two conference championships. After his playing career ended, Napier followed in his father’s footsteps.
He finally got his own team in 2017 when he was named Louisiana’s head coach. Over the next four seasons, Napier grabbed the headlines as one of college football’s up-and-coming coaches. Others took note.
Napier has attracted interest from Conference schools in Southeastern Mississippi, Auburn and South Carolina in recent years, but has remained in Lafayette. He patiently waited for the right opportunity.
Florida called and ticked all the boxes for Napier.
“We welcome expectations and are excited for the challenge ahead,” Napier said in a press release on Sunday. “We’re going to get a special group of people together and get to work right away to create a great program.”
Napier inherits a program from Florida that is 35-15 in his last 50 games, far from a recovery draft. Former UF coach Dan Mullen rejuvenated the Gators and won numerous games, including a pair of New Years Bowl games in his first two seasons. However, the momentum stopped at the end of the 2020 season and the Gators never recovered. They have gone 5-9 in Mullen’s last 14 games.
Napier was hired to do what Mullen, Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp couldn’t: win an SEC championship and advance to the college football playoffs to try and win a national title. It starts with recruiting, an area Napier has excelled in during his career. To help this cause, the Gators will open the $ 85 million Heavener Football Training Center in 2022.
He led Louisiana to unprecedented success and a return to the national rankings. Louisiana had been absent from the Top 25 AP for more than 70 years before Napier’s arrival. On Saturday night, the Ragin ‘Cajuns (11-1) ranked 20th will face Appalachian State for the Sun Belt Championship. Napier is due to arrive at UF the next day for his introductory press conference.
His first big breakthrough as a coach was when Swinney named him the youngest offensive coordinator in the program’s history. When the Tigers missed their second season, Napier was substituted and landed in Alabama. There he worked with McElwain, then offensive coordinator of Crimson Tide.
When McElwain left after the 2011 season to become Colorado State Head Coach, he took Napier with him. Napier returned to Alabama after a season at Colorado State and trained future first-round receivers Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley.
McElwain has given Napier great reviews during their time together.
“Billy Napier did a great job for us,” McElwain said in 2013. “It was a tough decision for him to leave, but I’m happy that Billy can bring his family back to the South, where his wife and a young child. maybe close to both grandparents. This support system is so important in our profession. “
Back in the South, Napier and his family grew closer to Coach Bill in his later years. His success in Alabama as a receiver coach, then a season as Arizona State offensive coordinator, helped Napier land the job in Louisiana.
Four years later, he is on his way to Gainesville.
Coach Bill is probably smiling at how it all turned out.
“If things go the way he wants over the next six to eight years, he might be able to return to a mid-major program like Coach McElwain did,” Bill Napier told Dalton (Ga .) Daily Citizen when her son’s career started to take off.
Things have definitely broken Napier’s path. They always follow his path.
Gators fans are hoping the trend continues.