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January 6, 2004When Arlington (Texas) Grace Prep wide receiver Lance Leggett committed to Florida a few days before the new year, he shocked many people with his early commitment. But one person who knew Leggett was going to make his decision over the break was Grace Prep head coach Mike Barber.
"He told me before leaving for the holidays that he was going to make his decision while he was home," Barber said. "I knew it was basically between Miami and Florida and possibly Purdue."
After Leggett made his announcement and after leaving a message for Barber, he finally tracked down Barber to tell him the good news.
"He called and left me a message at my home that he had made his decision and that was Florida," Barber said. "He called me and caught me one time and we talked. I just congratulated him and I thought he did an excellent job of evaluating what he felt like was best for himself. We are going to support him one thousand percent and cheer for him."
Leggett made official visits to Oklahoma (8/29), Miami (9/5), Florida (9/12), Purdue (10/10) and Texas A&M (12/12) before making his decision to verbally commit to Florida a few days after Christmas. Barber explains why Leggett went ahead and ended the recruiting process over a month before Signing Day.
"I think he was just caught up in the moment," Barber said. "He wants to please everybody. There is no doubt about it that there have been a couple of occasions that he wishes he would have just kept his mouth closed. He doesn't want someone to think that he is not a man of his word."
Rivals.com has rated Leggett a five-star athlete and the fourth best wide receiver in the entire country. But it wasn't always that kind of recognition for Leggett. He had to work his way into the recruiting picture and it wasn't until a few months ago that Leggett became a coveted recruit.
"I think the summer going into his senior year, when he traveled and made a number of different camps and ran 4.3's in all of them," Barber said. "Then when he started running routes and separated himself from ones (wide receivers) that were rated by the media higher than him. I had one head coach after the other call me and tell me that he is a better receiver than so and so, and so and so that is ranked above him."
This is the same time that the Gators came into the picture. They only became one of Leggett's favorites after his camp experience.
"Not in the very beginning. Purdue was probably the front runner," Barber said. "But as his name grew and got bigger then obviously more schools got involved and Florida immediately went to be one of the top schools along with Miami. He has spent a lot of time visiting with Florida and he has made his pick and I am happy for him."
Leggett's decision came down to Florida and Miami. When he announced he was headed to Florida, Leggett's father was not thrilled with the news. Leggett's father told another media outlet that his son wasn't making the right choice, but Barber admits it was a spur-of-the-moment comment.
"His dad is a die-hard Miami Hurricanes fan," Leggett said. "That is all he can talk about. His dad meant no harm by that. I can assure you that his dad is happy and will very much support his son going to Florida. I can assure you that if he could take that back he would take that back."
Barber reiterates that the Leggetts and everyone who has been involved with Leggett over the years will support him on his choice to go to Florida, leaving Barber with very few doubts that he will sign with Florida on Signing Day.
"That is what I believe he will do," Barber said. "He has been confused and he likes everybody. Everybody likes him and Lance's biggest problem is that he hates to say no to anybody. I think during our football season, I finally made him stop traveling and I made him start concentrating on our football season. I said, 'Lance you have plenty of time and the ones that are really interested in you will wait for you. But now we have to take care of our business.' I would be shocked if he changed his mind."
During their conversation, Leggett expressed to Barber the reasons why he chose Florida.
"He enjoyed the coaches and the players and just the overall atmosphere," Barber said. "He just overall loved the atmosphere and that is what drew him."
Florida didn't hurt its chances either when Florida head coach Ron Zook stopped by the Leggett household for an in-home visit.
"I just know that he said he really enjoyed it," Barber said.
Leggett checks in at 6-4 and weighs 178 pounds. As Barber stated earlier, Leggett has been clocked at 4.3 in the 40-yard dash. Leggett bench presses 210 pounds and squats 345 pounds.
On the season, Leggett had 41 receptions for 977 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 23.8 yards a reception. Leggett also returned punts and kickoffs and totaled 1,298 all-purpose yards for the season. As a junior, Leggett had 32 receptions for 749 yards and 10 touchdowns.
After coaching Leggett for two years, Barber sends Leggett to Florida prepared for the road ahead.
"He is as good as any athlete in America," Barber said. "Playing the game for 10 years, as I did myself, he has got the character. He has got the desire. He is going to be a great asset to Florida. He will do anything you ask him to do. He is very coachable. So he has a bright, bright future.
"The sky is the limit. There won't be anybody in college in a matter of time any better than Lance Leggett. Not many people his height can come out of cuts as well as he does. He runs his routes well. He has very good hands. He is not afraid to run over the middle and he will go get the football."
Leggett is leaving high school with quite a legacy and could be considered one of the best ever to pass through the halls of Grace Prep.
"No doubt about it," Barber said. "He was ranked second or third in the entire (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex of all schools both private and public. You don't replace athletes like Lance, you just go forward."
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