The Dan Mullen era at Florida is over. One year removed from taking Alabama to the wire in the SEC Championship Game and having a Heisman Trophy finalist in Kyle Trask, Mullen’s 2021 performance was downright sad.
The Gators lost to SEC foes they normally handle with ease, and Mullen lost interest in recruiting. On top of it all, the product on the field was awful.
When Mullen was relieved of his duties after a one-point loss to Missouri, Florida fans could breathe easy.
Barely a week later, the Gators hired up-and-comer Billy Napier away from Louisiana. Napier’s name was mentioned for pretty much every major college football opening the past few years, but Florida was the right fit at the right time.
Napier brings loads of coaching experience, including serving as the wide receivers coach under Nick Saban from 2013-2016, and a young family who is ready to fully support him in Gainesville.
The head of his support system is none other than his wife, Ali.
Billy Napier’s Wife Ali Napier
Billy and Ali met when Billy was quarterbacking the football team at Furman University. She graduated from Gainesville High School in 1999 and then Furman in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in history, according to a Gainesville Times article.
They tied the knot when he was on the Clemson coaching staff in 2008.
The couple has three kids together: sons Sammy Nelson Napier and Charlie Napier, and daughter Annie Napier.
During the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in Lafayette, Billy followed Ali’s lead as the head coach of the house. He handled the morning routine that included waking the kids up and getting them to make their beds and clean their rooms. Ali would take that time for herself. Most of the time that included doing a workout.
The Napiers, like many other parents during the pandemic, also acted as teachers. Although, it was more Ali planning out the curriculum and Billy doing the teaching. They focused on penmanship, math and several other subjects.
“As soon as I found out how we were going to be operating here,” Napier told reporters on Zoom during the pandemic, “I immediately thought about my wife.”
“Because all of sudden her schedule — the apple cart — was about to be turned upside down.”
Other than supporting her husband his head coaching career, Mrs. Napier remains under the radar. She’s appeared in several of his social media posts over the years, but her personal Instagram account is private.
Billy may get paid to make plans on the football field but it’s Ali who does the planning at home.
Billy Napier’s Coaching Career
Napier played quarterback at Murray County High School in Chatsworth, Georgia, and later at Furman. After his college playing days, where he led the Paladins to the Division I-AA (now FCS) championship game against Montana in his junior year, he became a graduate assistant at Clemson.
From there, he coached at South Carolina State, then returned to the Clemson Tigers as the tight ends coach before serving as an assistant coach at Alabama, Colorado State and Arizona State. He was made a head coach for the first time when he was hired by the University of Louisiana in 2018.
In three years leading the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, the American football coach led the program to a 39-12 record and won the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2020.
Napier has been around the block in the coaching world and learned from some of the best in the business. He served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. He also worked four seasons under Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa.
UF athletic director Scott Stricklin welcomed Napier’s family after the hiring was made official.
“I’ve followed and studied Billy Napier’s career with interest, and he became the primary target immediately after this position came open,” Stricklin said in a release. “We felt confident he would be an excellent leader for the Gators, which is why he was the only candidate I met with about the job.
“Billy’s ability to bring highly-talented people together — players, coaches, and staff — along with his vision for having a strong, relationship-based culture is what made him such an attractive choice. Add in how detailed his plan is for player development, staffing, and recruiting, along with a sustained desire to improve, and it’s easy to see why he’s been successful.
“I’m so pleased that Billy, Ali, Annie, Sammy Nelson, and Charlie are coming to Gainesville. It’s an exciting day for the Gators.”
Napier proved he can quickly turn programs around at Louisiana, which made him a hot coaching candidate for the current LSU opening and the Tennessee job last year. However, Napier turned down those Southeastern Conference teams to coach the University of Florida Gators. It’s unclear how much Napier will make in Gainesville, but it will assuredly boost his net worth.
Napier will quickly work to establish a program that will produce NFL talent and make highlight reels on ESPN. He’ll first don the blue and orange against the Utah Utes in the 2022 regular season opener.