The University of Central Florida was supposed to be Kendre Gant’s destination.
The 6-foot-4, 202-pound receiver/defensive back at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School had considered several schools, including Louisville and LSU among others, but had made up his mind that Central Florida was the place for him.
He said it again last Wednesday during National Signing Day, answering a question about his going to Central Florida with, “I was.”
But, that all changed the weekend before when he made his last official visit to South Florida and NCAA Division I Florida International University.
“As soon as I stepped on that campus I fell in love,” Gant said, listing another attraction; the pedigree of Head Coach Butch Davis, he of Miami University and NFL stints and his assistants.
The decision on schools wasn’t the only one weighing on Gant during the recruiting process.
There was also determining which side of the ball he felt his future resided.
As a senior, Gant caught eight passes for 72 yards and two touchdowns with the Tiger Sharks more of a ground team than during his junior season when he caught 19 passes for 434 yards and six touchdowns.
He also had a 30-yard pass completion and carried six times for another 30 yards as a junior.
But, in each of his last two high school years, he was an impact player on defense.
As a senior he recorded 62 tackles, fifth on the team, including 24 solo tackles and two tackles for loss.
Gant intercepted two passes, caused two fumbles and recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown.
He also blocked a punt.
Those numbers improved on a junior season during which he recorded 48 tackles, 26 solo and two for loss, with a blocked punt, interception, two fumbles caused and two fumbles recovered.
Gant is also a rounded athlete, averaging 17 points and nine rebounds a game during the current Tiger Shark basketball season.
Most of the college recruiters were looking at Gant to continue on the offensive side of the ball, he said.
Not FIU, which finished 8-4 last year and played the University of Toledo in a bowl game.
“I wanted to play defense,” Gant said. “I think I can go farther on that side of the ball.”
FIU recruited Gant as a cornerback, seeing a player of his height and frame as an ideal antidote to the increasing prevalence of size among wide receivers.
And while it was not a direct factor, let us also toss in a distinct Port St. Joe High School-FIU recruiting connection: Ash Parker, a standout on the 2005 Tiger Shark state title team signed a scholarship with and played four years for FIU.
“FIU is getting a good player and a good leader,” said Port St. Joe coach Greg Jordan.
“Football is not who we are, it is what we do. Football will end one day. But this will enable you to get a degree, to get your college day and set yourself up for success in life.”