Gary Shelton Darrell Fry
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Snell brothers are looking to make impact for Gators
By KEITH NIEBUHR
© St. Petersburg Times, published July 9, 2000
The University of Florida's freshmen football class includes one star-studded player after another, but Shannon Snell believes the one to watch when practice begins in August is not quarterback Brock Berlin, tailback Willie Green or, for that matter, even himself.
The player, he suggested is walk-on fullback Ray Snell Jr., his brother.
"They're going to be shocked at his talent," Shannon said. "He's one of the best at this level I've ever seen. He's for real."
Ray, a 19-year-old freshman, isn't your everyday walk-on.
In 1999, the Hillsborough High graduate was a heavily recruited 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker who had schools like Georgia, Kentucky and Syracuse interested. After failing to gain the necessary SAT score, Ray enrolled at Fork Union, a prep school in Virginia. Most college coaches lost touch even though he started 10 games last season.
Florida, Georgia Tech and Virginia were among the few schools that tracked Ray's progress.
"He kind of slipped through the cracks," said their mother, Gail Snell.
It took a bit of luck for the brothers, whose father Ray Snell Sr. was the first-round pick of the Bucs in 1980, to end up at the same college.
While accompanying Shannon, one of the country's most sought-after prep offensive lineman last year, on an unofficial recruiting trip to Gainesville, Ray met with UF assistant coach Buddy Teevens, who not only remembered him from the previous year but said he was interested in getting him to UF.
"They didn't give me any promises or anything, but I thought it was the best situation for me," Ray said. "All I wanted was a fair chance."
Ray picked UF shortly after Shannon signed with the Gators in February, even though they had no scholarships available.
"I never thought that they would end up together," Gail Snell said. "It's like a dream come true."
"He had offers from other places," Shannon said. "But I told him, "Ray, you need to come to Florida.' Mom wanted us to go to the same school, so it worked out perfect. Now, he has a perfect opportunity to start."
Shannon, 18, also has a good opportunity.
Because Florida lacks depth on the offensive line, Shannon, a Times All-Suncoast first-team pick, is expected to immediately challenge for a starting job at guard. Sensing Shannon's likelihood for playing time, Gators coach Steve Spurrier asked the 6-6, 310-pound consensus prep All-American to bypass last month's Florida-Georgia All-Star Game, not wanting his prized recruit to risk injury.
"To be honest, I fully expect to go in and compete for the starting spot," Shannon said. "I'm not going to go up there and shoot my mouth off or do any talking, I'm just going to go in and play."
Ray has similar expectations.
"I want to be a darkhorse," Ray said. "Nobody knew about me. Nobody expects me to do anything. I don't want anybody to say, "He's here just because his brother is here.' I want to show everybody what I'm about. I strongly believe that I will go in there and try to compete with the two seniors that are there and try to work my way into a starting position or backup position (this season). To be honest, in my personal opinion, I believe I can start."
Florida seems willing to give him the chance.
The Gators have two established fullbacks, senior Rod Frazier and junior Rob Roberts.
"I know Ray is going to work hard," Florida running backs coach Lawson Holland said. "He's certainly going to have an opportunity to contribute to this program."
Contributing is one thing. Starting is another.
Since 1990, only 14 freshmen have started at Florida -- no walk-ons..
"He can play with the best of them," Shannon said. "When they come out with the magazines, nobody will know about him. Absolutely nobody. The first time they know who he is, hopefully, is when he starts his first game. Ray is a very good player and I wouldn't be surprised if he earned the starting job this year."
Ray Snell Jr.
SIZE: 6-1, 230
POSITION: Offensive guard
SIZE: 6-6, 310
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.