Gator senior swimmer Brad deBorde got his start in the water because he was hot.
“I would be coming from soccer practice and it was so hot that I would just get into the water. The coaches saw me and were like, ‘your brother is trying out; do you want to try out, too?’ It was kind of natural,” deBorde said.
Though his start as a swimmer was a natural process, his journey to the top of collegiate swimming was far from natural.
Brad deBorde, a 14-time All-American, 2012 SEC champion in the 50 freestyle, and vital member of the men’s team that took the SEC title this past February, wasn’t a touted recruit coming out of high school.
Unlike many of his fellow swimmers, he wasn’t pursued by numerous colleges.
As fate would have it however, on the day he won the Florida state title in the 200 freestyle as a high school senior, Florida head coach Gregg Troy caught glimpse of him and saw he had found a future star.
“When he [Coach Troy] saw me win states, he called me the next day and spoke a lot to me about having potential,” said deBorde.
The phone call changed deBorde’s life, as he had never thought he would receive the attention of one of the best swimming coaches and programs in the nation.
“It meant a lot that he was there and even with how little knowledge I had back then about swimming, I had heard about him and obviously about Ryan’s [Lochte] accomplishments and about the famous coaching staff here,” deBorde admitted.
Despite a positive high school career, deBorde’s arrival on the Florida campus represented an awakening of sorts.
Things were different, tougher.
“From my high school experience, I really didn’t have any guys to push me or train with. And then when I came here, there would be people doing my best times in practice; seeing that just expanded my horizons in a way that I was able to learn more about myself. I realized that the things you think are impossible can be achieved,” he said. “I’ve learned how to push yourself beyond limits. Because swimming is based on a clock which is like an impartial judge, you really know where you are at all times. In training you learn your limits, what you can do, and then you learn to exceed those.”
Exceeding his limits is not a foreign concept for Brad.
As an industrial and systems engineering major, he constantly has to carefully plan out each day to keep things in check and maintain his excellent performance in the classroom and the pool as an SEC Academic Honor Roll Selection.
“It’s definitely a practice of being a master at time management. My sophomore year I was living on like four hours of sleep and it was just unhealthy. You just have to learn how to prioritize things. When I’m at swimming, I’m 100% focused on swimming and then as soon as I’m done with that I know I have to refuel and then get to do homework. I haven’t really used the tutoring services here the last couple of years because they don’t really offer them for engineering majors, so pretty much during the week I’m either doing homework or training, and that’s fine with me; I chose this lifestyle.” he continued.
Despite seemingly having it all under control winning titles and getting A’s, Brad is aware that success is a very relative thing and it should never be taken lightly.
With his feet firmly on the ground, he is thankful to be able to fulfill a dream he never realized he had.
“Initially, I wasn’t sold on being able to swim in college; I never thought I’d be fast enough, really. So coming here meant a lot. Growing up in Florida I had heard how fast the Gators were all the time so being able to participate and be a big part of that was a small dream that I didn’t realize I had, but it was a dream that I could achieve; that was pretty neat,” he said.
As the dream became a reality, the self-described scrawny kid from high school gained almost 40 pounds in muscle weight and realized his presence on the team mattered.
And for him, this is perhaps still his biggest achievement to date.
“I never thought that I could do anything for this team. Now that I realize my role, I’m more confident of what I can do and I’m able to speak to everyone about that,” he said. “Knowing that I have a voice and that someone will listen is probably the biggest change for me.”
And well,that is a pretty good change to go through.