John Denton's Knights Insider: Godfrey's Maturity is Evident

Sept. 23, 2010

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - As it turns out, not only did freshman phenom Jeff Godfrey lead UCF on a game-winning, 90-yard drive last week in his first collegiate start; he also called his shot in the huddle.

``We had to get the job done. We had to go 90 yards and that's what we did,'' Godfrey remembered. ``I told them in the huddle that we were going to do it and we did it together as a team.''

It's that kind of confidence, that kind of swagger while still keeping the team at the forefront that has made Godfrey an instant hit with his UCF teammates. His belief in his own abilities and his ability to lead UCF back from any sort of circumstance has been a contagious confidence that has rubbed off on his teammates.

Similar to his prediction of a touchdown drive in the Buffalo game, Godfrey got in the face of center Jordan Rae along the sidelines before entering the NC State game and promised he'd provide a spark to the offense. He ultimately drove the Knights on two touchdown drives and put them in position for a tying score before a fumble resulted in a seven-point loss.

That dazzling performance against NC State electrified the Knights' fan base, one that had been dying to see the Miami native play since he committed to UCF last winter. It also won him the starting quarterback job and put him at the forefront of the offense despite being a true freshman. And it seems the person the least surprised by any of it is Godfrey himself.

``I had that confidence because I had been in that situation before and I was going to lead my team,'' said Godfrey, referring to his near comeback against NC State. ``I told the guys that we were going to get the job done and win this game and to follow me. We did a great job and we almost came back with a victory.''

Admittedly jittery last week in Buffalo, Godfrey's second collegiate start comes Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against undefeated Kansas State (3-0) in Manhattan, Kan. Last week, Godfrey didn't turn the ball over and completed 15 of 24 passes for 130 yards against Buffalo, but head coach George O'Leary said the quarterback's play was too inconsistent throughout the game. He hopes that Godfrey will show dramatic improvement each week that he's under center for the Knights (2-1).

``When you really analyze the game and study, there were about three or four touchdowns left on the field in the first half that were wide open receivers that you have to hit. We left too many plays on the field and hopefully that gets better each week with him,'' O'Leary said. ``There are a lot of situations where he acted like a freshman. It is a learning experience but obviously he is a very talented individual who hopefully learns and picks up on some of those things. You can't do some of those things you did in high school trying to run around pressure instead of stepping up into the pocket and keeping your eyes down field. There were a number of receivers open that we have to hit and he is going to get better at that as the season goes on.''

Godfrey came to UCF after re-writing all of the record books in Miami-Dade County, breaking the prep marks set previously by University of Miami star Jacory Harris. Godfrey said a big reason why he plays with so much confidence now is because he was groomed his whole life for this moment.

His father, Jeffrey Godfrey Jr., coached him throughout his Pop Warner and Optimist League games when crowds of 10,000 fans would regularly turn out to watch him play quarterback. UCF assistant head coach David Kelly first saw Godfrey play quarterback as an eighth-grader and vowed then that he would recruit him to whatever school he was coaching at at the time.

``My father put a lot of pressure on me when I was younger. I was brought up to do this and that's what I got recruited for,'' he said. ``I just want to make my teammates happy and my coaches and the fans happy.''

Godfrey was none too happy when some college recruiters backed off of him because of his slight frame at 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds. Several SEC and ACC schools still pursued Godfrey as a wide receiver or a defensive back, but he ultimately chose UCF because of his relationship with Kelly and the ability to play quarterback early in his career.

``That (lack of height) motivates me a lot. A lot of colleges said that I'm 5-9 and I wouldn't be able to get the job done,'' Godfrey said. ``It motivates me a lot because I like Drew Brees, we're the same height and he just won a Super Bowl. It really has nothing to do with height, it's just the heart that you have.''

That heart has been evident in how Godfrey never seems to give up on a play and has shown an ability to make a good play out of one that initially looks disastrous. And he's certainly made UCF's receiving corps happy because of his willingness to throw the deep ball.

UCF senior wide out Brian Watters, who caught a critical 13-yard reception on UCF's game-winning drive last week, said Godfrey has taught the receivers to never quit on a play.

``Being as young as he is, he's shown me a lot of poise, play-making ability and instinct. A lot of the time he might do the thing exactly right, but his athleticism takes over,'' said Watters, who has caught 10 passes for 135 yards so far this season. ``God blessed him an amazing arm. There's no way that you can outrun his ball. Anywhere on the field, any position, he can always get his shoulder around and sling it down the field 70 yards. He's got his mindset on throwing the ball down the field and we know that now.''

In three games, he's completed 28 of his 41 passes for 302 yards and a touchdown. And because he's so adept at scrambling, he's already UCF's second-leading rusher with 104 yards and two touchdowns.

The ability to make plays with both his feet and arm and doing it so early in his career has already evoked comparisons to Daunte Culpepper, who is considered football royalty around UCF. Of the nine true freshmen ever to start at quarterback for the Knights only Culpepper and Godfrey won their first-ever starts. And when Godfrey led the Knights on the 15-play, game-winning drive last Saturday he became the first freshman quarterback at UCF to do so since - you guessed it - Culpepper in 1995.

He knows that Culpepper is the gold standard at UCF in terms of quarterback play and he could very well be on his way to shattering many of the former UCF great's records. Culpepper ran for five TDs and threw for 2,071 yards and 12 more scores as a freshman - marks that could be reachable for Godfrey.

``UCF is already on the map. I'm just here to help UCF get better and my teammates want to do the same thing,'' he said. ``I know a little about the history of Daunte Culpepper and his records here. I'm trying to get up there where he was and break his records, too.''

Godfrey said he greatly appreciates the support that he's gotten from the UCF fan base and the student body, but he's had to learn to keep walking on campus in order to not be late for class because of his many well-wishers. He stressed over and over on Wednesday that while he is the quarterback, he shouldn't be the focus of a UCF football team that has Conference USA championship aspirations this season.

``I think we're all the face of UCF football. We're a team and it's UCF and there's one face,'' he said. ``It felt great that (the fans have) embraced me, but it's not just about me; it's about the team. I didn't do what I've done by myself; we did it as a team.''


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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.