Press Conference Transcript



Jan. 6, 2014

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By Jenna Marina

UCF football head coach George O'Leary Opening Statement:
"Welcome. Anytime you have a big announcement in the football program you can see a press conference being called for that reason. I'll tell you a funny story coming down, they wanted to know what they should wear. I said, `I don't really care you don't have to impress me anymore.' That's what this is about. I'll let Blake make the first announcement and then Storm make the second."

Blake Bortles:
"Good afternoon. After a lot of deliberation and talking to my parents I've decided to try and pursue my goal of playing in the NFL and capture my dream - it's been a lifelong thing. I'd like to thank everybody that has been a huge supporter of us and has helped us this season in really what was a magical season. Coach O'Leary for the opportunity that he gave me in playing college football and the rest of the coaching staff: Coach Taaffe for preparing me to try and pursue my dream; the strength and conditioning coaches, the training room, the equipment staff - really every aspect of what's part of UCF football has been a huge help to our success.

I'd like to thank the University of Central Florida, and just couldn't be more proud to say that I played football at UCF for four years and it was the best four years of my life. I'm very proud to be from Oviedo and be fortunate enough to play in my hometown and for us to have the support and the following that we do is really special and just couldn't be more proud to be a part of UCF and this great journey."

Storm Johnson:
"Good afternoon. First and foremost I'd like to thank my family of UCF. This was a tough journey for me and I'm just super proud. I've had the great support of George O'Leary and the coaching staff all year long as I've been here through ups and downs. I'd like to thank my family because it was a hard decision to make but I had to make the best decision for me. I'd like to thank coach O'Leary again for giving me the opportunity, a second chance really at what was something that I thought was lost before. I'd like to thank everybody, thank you."

George O'Leary:
"I'd want to thank them both from the UCF football program, the university. The only thing I was concerned about regarding this whole thing was that they both get their degrees, and they've both promised me they would. I think right now both have been a major positive for this program since they've been in it. Again, I'm sorry to see them go but I'm happy for them and they're actually fourth-year guys in college, which makes a difference going out as a true junior rather than third-year redshirt. I wish them well. They'll be tough to replace, there's no question but all the football program does is wish them well and hope to see them playing on Sundays."

What was the process like Wednesday night after the Fiesta Bowl until what got you here to this point making this announcement:
Bortles: "It was a grueling process, a tough decision. It's two great options but I sat down with my family and came to the decision that I'd like to pursue my dream and have the opportunity."

Johnson: "Like Blake said, it was a tough decision. I had to sit down with my people and discuss it for days at a time but they thought it was the best decision for me and they thought it was the right time to go."

O'Leary: "They both know it's not a final decision until Jan. 15. Right? OK."

What will you say to the guys behind you at the quarterback position as UCF moves forward?
Bortles: I know coach Taaffe and coach O'Leary and the rest of the staff will do a great job of preparing them and getting them ready to lead this offense. I wish every quarterback that's here the best of luck and told them that if they ever need anything, I'm a phone call away. I would be more than happy to help in any way I could."

How emotional was it to tell your teammates of your decision, and how did the Fiesta Bowl win factor into the decision?
Johnson: "Telling my teammates was very hard for me because I'm close to all of my teammates. [The win] helped a lot but it wasn't a main factor."

Bortles: "The camaraderie and friendships that are built within that locker room is something that makes it very difficult to tell them that you're not going to be here playing for them next year. But they were understanding and understand the situation and what was going on."

Blake, can you reflect on your career here - going from a local kid to what you've been able to accomplish?
Bortles: "I couldn't be more happy and proud and grateful for coach O'Leary for giving me that opportunity. I really found a home in UCF and had a great four years, the best four years of my life, and couldn't be more proud to be a part of this team and this university."

O'Leary: "We first found out about Blake when he came to camp as a junior before his senior year. We were very impressed with him at camp. I'll tell you what a great evaluator I was - I thought he'd be a great tight end. But he never saw that position once he arrived on campus. The one thing he did, which I give credit to him and the coaches - he worked at the game. Nothing comes easy at that position but he worked extremely hard at being who he is, hours and hours and hours upon film and meetings and everything to know what he knows about protections to be a full, all-around quarterback, not just a play caller. I think that's where his progress was made this year. He controlled the field very well."

Blake, between now and the draft, do you plan on working on your game or getting a QB coach?
Bortles: "I'll go and train where ever I decide to and work on improving my game and getting as ready as I can possibly be for my next step."

Blake, when did you officially make your decision?
Bortles: "I went and talked to coach O'Leary yesterday and that was really when I told him what I was thinking."

O'Leary: "It's funny, I told him not to say anything and to announce it at the press conference. Any time more than one person knows about something, it's no longer a secret. That's why I didn't return phone calls or anything else because I was under the assumption no one knew about it until I saw it on the 11 o'clock news. Someone let the cat out of the bag."

Bortles: "It wasn't me."

When did this dream start for you - going to the NFL?
Johnson: "This has been a dream of mine probably since I first touched the football at 6 years old."

Bortles: "I don't know that it's still hit me yet. I think it's every kid's childhood dream to become a professional athlete in whatever sport they decide to play. It was a dream of mine that I'm really looking forward to try to pursue."

Coach O'Leary, are you pretty happy that you misevaluated him at first?
O'Leary: "I didn't misevaluate him, I said that just in statement but he was coming in as a quarterback. I thought if he didn't play quarterback he'd be a heck of a tight end and I still believe that. He's not going to get that option anymore but I think the big thing with him is the character that has to come in at quarterback is someone who is very resilient. They have to be able to take tough coaching, you're on center stage - you do well it's in the paper. You do poorly it's in the paper and you have to be able to live with that. That's probably the one thing that I think Blake had to overcome a little bit - a woe-me kind of thing and he grew up big time this year. He took blame for everything and did exactly what someone you want running your huddle would do. I was very happy that he did that. Both are well respected by their teammates and I think that's a key thing when you're looking at all of this."

Blake, what do you tell the quarterbacks behind you? What's the most important thing for being the starting quarterback at UCF?
Bortles: "Like coach just said, resiliency is a huge characteristic. Poise. Being a lead-by-example guy, a `we' guy not a `me' guy and really earning the respect of the huddle and your teammates."

If you get invited to the combine, will you work out there or will you work out at UCF pro day?
Johnson: "I would like to do both if I could."

Bortles: "That's a huge honor to be invited to the combine so I'm sure that would be something to look into and go do."

Coach O'Leary, what advice can you give these guys as they prepare for the NFL?
O'Leary: "The first thing we did, both wanted to check in with the NFL Advisory Committee so we filled out the form for that. Both were pleased with what they read. I called around to the coaches and to the people I know in the league itself. I gave them my advice but I think it's another world. You're going from high school to college. It's one jump. You go from college to the pros, it's a big jump. Everybody can run. It's all the best athletes in the world out on that field and I think both are going to test well and do the things right that they need to do and hopefully the pro teams see that.

"I said to them if you have a burning desire to go to the NFL, then go. And they both had that and that's what they're doing so we're nothing but behind them 100 percent and wish them well. They've both done great things for the program and the only thing I want to make sure is that they get their degree."

Coach O'Leary, how would you like these two guys to be remembered?
O'Leary: "I think as two players who were great productive players in the program and did a lot for this season, there's no question about that. Not just this season, but you know (three of the) last four years we've won 10 games. And that's what was forgotten in this whole thing about the BCS bowl and all that stuff. I think both of these guys had a lot to do with those 10-win seasons, there's no question there. I think this year a lot of people had a part in it, but if you go back from a production standpoint, they'll be remembered probably for the most successful team coming through UCF in the school's history and they're names will be on top of the marquee lights."

Blake, what has the reaction been like from the fans?
Bortles: "It's been really good. The support has been awesome and really makes me feel good about everything. I wouldn't expect anything less from UCF fans and wishing me luck and thanking us for such a great season. It's been really good and very supportive."