Friday Night Lights: A Primer

By Jason Priestas on December 16, 2011 at 1:00p

Not long after Urban Meyer was announced as Ohio State's 24th football coach, observers of the program began to wonder whether he'd bring his highly successful summer camp, Friday Night Lights, with him to Columbus. Appearing on WKNR in Cleveland last night, Meyer fulfilled the dreams of Buckeye recruitniks everywhere by saying, "A bunch of recruits are asking about it and Friday Night Lights will make its way to Columbus, Ohio."

Friday Night Lights was a raging success held annually at Florida's Ben Hill Griffin StadiumComing soon to the Shoe.

The brainchild of Meyer and his inaugural staff at Florida in 2005, Friday Night Lights, or FNL as it's known, is a one-night summer camp showcasing high school players from around the country.

Typically occurring on the third or fourth Friday in July, it's positioned as one of the last camps on recruits' summer schedules, maximizing the number of prospects that are able to attend the event.

And attend, they do.

Though the first edition of FNL was an unqualified success (future Gator legend Tim Tebow would bond with Jarred Fayson at FNL '05), the event would go on to grow to the point where hundreds of recruits, many of them elite, would pay their own way to Gainesville to show off their skills under the lights, with hip-hop rocking the stadium and team highlights rolling on the scoreboard video screen (with the occasional troll technique, like flashing the Florida-Florida State score from the previous season, which would not work so well lately).

In 2007, Friday Night Lights saw 42 four-star or better players attend and two years later, an astounding six of Rivals' 17 five-star recruits -- and 20 of the services top 100 players -- would make the trip to Gainesville to compete.

The electric atmosphere often leads to recruits deciding to stick around an extra day or two to get to know the staff and school a little better. And as we're quickly finding out, if you give Urban Meyer some quality one-on-one time with a recruit, good things tend to happen.

What's really important about this crucial face time with Meyer and his staff is that late July is a quiet period in recruiting and coaching staffs cannot contact recruits during this time. Unless they're on a school's campus, that is. We see you working, Urban.

As you can imagine, Meyer used FNL to great success through the years, often landing commitments from one, two or three elite prospects at a single event (Jeff Demps being one recent example). Some recruits, overwhelmed by excitement in the days leading up to the event, will commit early in the week, unable to delay that sweet, sweet gratification of making things officially (in a verbal sense, at least) on Friday night.

Often, as in the case of current Gator defensive tackle Dominique Easley, commits to other schools would attend FNL giving Meyer the chance to slow cook them. Easley was a Penn State commit when he attended FNL in July of 2009, but spoke lovingly of the Gators, even indulging in a few Gator Chomps to delight the crowd. Five months later, he decommitted from Penn State and committed to Florida at the Under Armour All-American Game.

While the event features some of the best prep talent in America, it also provides a chance for Meyer and his staff to find diamonds in the rough. Between 2006 and 2010, 60 of Urban Meyer's 120 recruits at Florida committed between November and National Signing Day in February. Many of these were guys that may have arrived at FNL a bit under the radar, but did well enough against elite competition to impress the staff enough to earn a scholarship.

And it's not just seniors making the trip. Each year, dozens of the nation's best junior prospects get their first real taste of big time college football at Friday Night Lights, setting the foundation for a relationship between Meyer, his staff and the player.

The showcase also serves as a player's first introduction to Meyer's legendary intensity and discipline. Recruits are warned not to loaf on the football field or do anything to embarrass the host school. In 2009, Miami recruit Tavadis Glenn threw up the "U" to fans and the Gator staff after a drill and was promptly booted from the event.

Helping to ensure things run smoothly at FNL Columbus will be Mark Pantoni, recently plucked from the Gators to serve as Urban's Director of Player Personnel. Pantoni once described his brain as a database and it shows. After joining Meyer's Florida staff as an intern in 2006, he quickly worked his way up to the position of Program Coordinator for Recruiting Operations and his day-to-day job saw him setting up visits with recruits, working closely with compliance and most importantly, serving as the man behind the curtain for Friday Night Lights. It's really difficult to overstate how integral he is to the event and having him in Columbus will help ensure it doesn't miss a beat.

Something never before seen in Columbus is coming and it's an exciting bump in what used to be known as a dead period of sorts between the spring game and the start of fall camp. While our enemies to the north will be welcoming players to the Big House for a BBQ (so many jokes), Meyer and his staff will be electrifying Buckeye fans with the premiere recruiting showcase in the country.

Best of all, it's free and open to the public. See you at the Shoe in late July.


Comments Show All Comments

carence's picture

Is the event open to the public?

Nappy's picture

Best of all, it's free and open to the public.

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Northbrook's picture

But can the public, like, attend & what is the best thing about it?

carence's picture

I would rather go to this and see the players with my own eyes than watch game film of a 5 star athlete playing against division 5 elementary schools. 

Northbrook's picture

Only if it is free. Is it?

sharkvsghost's picture

...and what's the shoe?

swing hard in case you hit it.

Northbrook's picture

Is late July like the first week in August?

Nappy's picture

Is that like the opposite of December?

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Northbrook's picture

When will this gala event be held?

Nappy's picture

In the future, duh

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Denny's picture

The future, Conan?


Todd-Not Boeckmann's picture

What time will the skull session start?

On the wall guarding the North Coast from all Weasel invasions.

Nappy's picture


I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Trim Jessel's picture

And what is this TBDBITL thing I keep hearing about?

Anything easy...ain't worth a damn.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

so how many monies is it?

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

socferal's picture

I'm thinking alot of commenters didn't actually read the article. And, "What is the shoe....?" C'mon.....Really?

Buckeyejason's picture

Bizaro world.


Wolverine_Killer's picture

Will Hoke Bacon Sandwiches be served at the event?

dsgbuckeye's picture

Only if it's free and open to the public.... which I'm not sure it is.

Northbrook's picture

As long as you're wearing shoes. No shoes, no service.

Northbrook's picture

I just wish there was somewhere we could get some information on this event. You know, the kind of stuff that would be in, say, a primer.

Denny's picture

Feel like we should invent some sort of electronics-based method of sharing and obtaining information so we could find such a primer.


Nappy's picture

Perhaps we just get some really fast horses and dedicated men to ride them taking messages across the country.

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Seth4Bucks's picture

What is this squiggly jiberrish on my screen? It's like my computer is trying to tell me something. I just wish there were a way to read what my computer is trying to say.

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

Carence is now hunting down all of your IP addresses...just saying lol

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

flipbuckeye's picture

This thread made my day.

buckeyedude's picture

I wish they would do this "Friday Night Lights" thing on Saturday so I could go. Just call it the "Friday Night Lights on Saturday."  I work and live out of town. I go to the spring game when it's played on the weekend.



fstone's picture

This comment thread cracked me up.  So much so I had to register and post that as a comment.

TBUCK2's picture

Comments are not allowed unless they explain 1) 'The Shoe. 2) Is the event 'free'. And 3) What teams are playing that Saturday??