GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Michigan wanted him. So did Michigan State.
One of the state’s most high-profile recruits his senior season in 2010, Gators redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers was named Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year at Madison Heights High, located 15 minutes north of downtown Detroit.
He surprised some in his home state when he chose to sign with Florida – as a defensive back. Showers was primarily a running back in high school until playing the secondary his senior season.
“It’s a long way from Detroit, but I didn’t really want to stay in-state, so that influenced my decision,” Showers told the Detroit Free-Press at the time. “Even though Michigan and Michigan State came at me, I had to do what I had to do.”
Showers did what he had to do this fall, too. He moved back to offense.
Showers didn’t mind when coaches asked if he wanted to convert back to offense with sophomore running back Matt Jones, the projected starter at tailback, came down with a serious viral infection right before fall camp opened.
“It’s always a good thing to have the ball in your hands,” a relaxed Showers said Tuesday as he took questions from a group of reporters in the visiting locker room at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. “It’s not a bad move at all.”
Showers served on the scout team in 2011 as a freshman redshirt, and last season he appeared in 11 games primarily on special teams. However, with the Gators short-handed in camp, Showers made the transition into a role similar to the one occupied by Omarius Hines in Florida coach Will Muschamp’s first two seasons.
Hines was used at receiver and running back and effective in the short passing game and on misdirection runs. Showers (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) lacks Hines’ bulk but is quicker and more elusive.
His teammates were impressed by Showers’ easy transition back to offense. Showers enters the season opener Saturday against Toledo as the third-team tailback.
As a senior at Madison Heights, Showers intercepted three passes and rushed for 2,024 yards and 29 touchdowns. Madison Heights reached the regional finals both seasons and Showers the Detroit News named Showers its Player of the Year.
“I think it’s a real good move,” said starting running back Mack Brown, one of the players Showers will compete for carries with on Saturday. “I think it’ll help out the offense a lot. He’s a real fast back. He can catch, [is] real smart. So this is a big opportunity for Valdez.”
One Showers is ready for – and in some ways, has waited on.
“The way I pictured things [playing offense] probably never went away, to score a touchdown,” he said. “That’s something you can’t let go. Offense comes natural to me, so it wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier than defense.”
If his number is called on Saturday, will Showers be edgy? Will he hesitate when taking a handoff?
“I’m not nervous at all. It’s football,” he said. “I’ve been playing it all my life.”