Jacksonville Sports Day

UF: Mullen Surprises Walk-Ons Raymond and Villano

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When Florida coach Dan Mullen huddled the Gators together following Monday evening’s practice inside Florida’s Indoor Practice Facility, he saved a special surprise for last.

The announcement caused a celebration as Mullen put both tight end R.J. Raymond and offensive lineman Nick Villano on scholarship.

“I had no idea it was coming,” Raymond said. “When he said it, it was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It means the world to me. It shows me that these coaches see the work that I am putting in and that everything Nick and I have been doing hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

A Florida native who played at Fletcher High in the Jacksonville area, Raymond has been a mainstay on UF’s special teams units over the past two seasons. He moved to tight end last spring under the new coaching staff and has flourished in that role, catching a 58-yard touchdown pass in April’s Orange & Blue Game.

Raymond will continue playing a key role on special teams, but will also continue to compete for playing time at tight end.

Meanwhile, Villano has yet to appear in a game at the University of Florida but found himself entrenched in a competition for the starting center position during fall camp.

“It was a great feeling,” Villano said of earning a scholarship. “I have been working for this for the past three years, and for this to finally come is truly a blessing for me and my family. I have been working my butt off, and a dream came true today.”

Villano is a native of Wellington, Fla. and American Heritage High School.

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