Miami native Jeff Godfrey will be returning to his South Florida roots Saturday night when UCF takes on Florida International, but this game will be about so much more than just a homecoming for the sensational sophomore.
The fact that Godfrey is returning as a quarterback is a victory before he even takes the field Saturday at 6 p.m. Even though he put up some of the most prolific prep statistics in Miami-Dade County history and established himself as somewhat of a cult legend, Godfrey was told repeatedly by college scouts that he’d never make it as a quarterback at the Division I level.
Fresh off one of the best freshmen seasons in the country and riding a hot start to this sophomore season, Godfrey makes a triumphant return to South Florida now as a standout quarterback. And he’s become the best thing to ever happen to UCF’s offense at a whopping 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds – factors other schools said would always hinder his ability to shine as a quarterback. Now, the only one laughing is UCF’s star quarterback.
“Some of the people have to be kicking themselves, thinking maybe this kid could have played quarterback after all,” Godfrey said with a chuckle. “But hey, that’s their loss and UCF’s gain. UCF was the one that gave me this opportunity and I took it. I love where I am now.”
Where he is now is the leader of UCF’s offense and the face of a program that is on the rise in the college football world. The Knights are 2-0 after blanking Charleston Southern 62-0 and throttling Boston College 30-3. And the belief now is that with Godfrey under center anything is possible.
Godfrey has proven himself plenty capable as a quarterback, already running for five touchdowns this season while also completing 74.3 percent of his passes. That follows a first season at UCF where he was the most efficient freshman quarterback in the country and became Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year.
Other schools such as Miami, Florida State, Oregon, USF and even FIU recruited Godfrey after he shattered Jacory Harris’ prep passing records, but all of them wanted him to make a position switch to defensive back or wide receiver. But UCF stood firm that Godfrey could not only play quarterback, but thrive in the position and lead the offense.
“Going back to South Florida now, I want to show everybody that I am a quarterback and I am a leader,” Godfrey said. “I’m just so thankful for UCF giving me this opportunity. I feel blessed getting this chance and I’m trying to make the most of it.”
He’s getting this chance because of the strong beliefs of head coach George O’Leary and assistant head coach David Kelly, UCF’s lead recruiter in South Florida. O’Leary had success previously at Georgia Tech with smallish quarterback Joe Hamilton and he believes a player’s strong intangibles often help them overcome any physical shortcomings.
“I’ve had quarterbacks like him with Hamilton, and it wasn’t the line that got in his way; it was the linebackers,” O’Leary said. “But (Godfrey) is able to use the gaps to see down field and get the job done.”
Despite his small size, Godfrey was always his team’s quarterback and was sound fundamentally when throwing the ball. He was taught to play the position by his father, Jeff Godfrey Sr., and the two would often do footwork drills in the sand on the beach or in the twilight hours at the park.
Whereas some saw an undersized quarterback, Kelly instead saw a gutsy player who knew how to win and how to lead others.
“I thank the Good Lord that I happened to be here at UCF when it came time to recruit him,” said Kelly. “He had enough confidence in us to bring his skills and talents here and the rest is history.”
And seemingly each time Godfrey goes out on the field, he proceeds to re-write the history books at UCF. After taking one look at the cat-quick quarterback last season, UCF legend Daunte Culpepper predicted that Godfrey would someday shatter all of his career marks. With Godfrey running for 15 scores already, Culpepper’s record of rushing TDs by a UCF quarterback (24) could be in serious danger by the end of this season.
Godfrey admitted earlier in the week that his emotions will be soaring come Saturday night when he plays in Miami for the first time since his high school days. As of the middle of the week, he had secured 21 tickets for his family and friends and said he was still in search of four more tickets.
Undoubtedly, Godfrey is excited about going back home to play in front of family and friends. But he’s always anticipating playing in front of some of the people who never thought he’d play major-college football as a quarterback. That fact alone makes this more than just another homecoming for Godfrey, who never doubted that he could be successful at UCF.
“The emotions will be really big for me. But I have to keep telling myself to keep my focus on the game and not on the crowd. I’m going down there to play football and nothing else,” he said. “I never had any doubt I could do this. I’ve played quarterback my whole life and there was no reason to think I couldn’t do it at the college level. So that’s what I’m still trying to show people now.”