Many, many miles separate Akron, Ohio from south Florida. But like every team in the Mid-American Conference (let alone most Division I programs around the nation), Akron finds talented players from the popular hotbed.
Those players are important for the team on the field, but having those bonds in the locker room is just as important for teams like Akron, who will be playing in the MAC Championship game tomorrow at Ford Field in Detroit, to have.
Akron’s star defensive player is an Ocala, Fla.-native: junior linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III, who was recently named a First Team All-MAC linebacker for his second straight year. This year, he leads the team with 118 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and five sacks.
Gilbert is also an important player in the locker room when it comes to connecting with other Florida natives.
“As a freshman, it was better to get acclimated to the system and to have the Florida guys around me because they know where I’m from,” Gilbert said during the MAC Championship game’s pregame press conference. “When freshmen come from Florida with a bunch of Florida guys in the locker room, I mean, we all came from the same place. It makes them more comfortable just to be in our system, it’s more comfortable to just go, everyday, to class, go to practice, just to know that I’ve got people from the same place.
“To be a leader and just to be able to talk to them, just be able to play around with them, of course it makes them comfortable, because it makes them feel like they’ve got a brother up here as we’re away from home.”
By our count, of Akron’s 15 commits for the 2018 signing class, five are from Florida: Ronald Beasley (offensive line, Dunnellon HS), Rich Hall (defensive back, Coconut Creek HS), Timothy Scippio (wide receiver, Coconut Creek HS), Te’Corey Tutson (running back/wide receiver, Coral Gables HS) and Keyondre White (running back, Charminade-Madonna HS).
The MAC Championship game will be played Saturday at Ford Field, which is set to start at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The MAC also announced that its conference championship game will stay in Detroit through the 2021 season.