Dante Fowler, Jr. said after Florida's Pro Scout Day that he would be surprised if he fell beneath the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 3 during the first round of the NFL draft — it turns out he was onto something.
The player who led UF with 8.5 sacks got picked a bit earlier than expected by most to the Jaguars but strutted across the stage in a white tuxedo and sent a message to North Florida saying "Duval, you got a Gator, let's do it," on the ESPN telecast.
With Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota opting to stay home with family to watch the draft, Fowler was the first player to be featured on stage and shake commissioner Roger Goodell's hand.
"Besides my baby being born this is the best day. It was something I always dreamed about as a four-year-old and now I'm living it up," Folwer said in a teleconference with media after being selected. "It was a dream come true, to be honest with you, to be fortunate enough to be here and walk across that stage. To show my family and friends back home that I did it was a great accomplishment."
He is the eighth Gator picked in team history and the first since Josh Evans was selected in the sixth round in 2013. Fowler says the two are in contact and that Evans could help him get adjusted to the playbook and again take him under his wing on the defense like he did the one season they played together at UF.
It is widely known that edge rushers are among the most precious commodities in today's NFL and the Jaguars got that. According to general manager David Caldwell the Jacksonville brain-trust was set on picking Fowler nearly a week ago.
The plan is to play him on the edge on first and second downs and when needed move him around in Nickel packages. The Jaguars will be without defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks who tore his ACL late in the 2014 season for an extended part of the 2015 season and according to Caldwell that means Fowler will play on the interior a healthy amount until Marks' return.
"(Fowler's) a good fit in our scheme and we need an edge rusher. We need a young edge rusher," Caldwell said. "Not only is he a young edge rusher, but he's flexible in that we can play him in a lot of positions. He can play inside. He played defensive tackle when he was younger kid. He's played a little defensive tackle this year in pass rush situations, so we can use him inside if we have to. His physicality, we believe, was unmatched in this year's draft."
Is it the shoes? It's gotta be the shoes, and Fowler's shoe game crushed the competition Thursday night.
Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) April 30, 2015
Fowler got the hookup from someone because when he went to purchase them after seeing them being worn by former Gator Joe Haden, they were sold out. He was set on the shoes the whole time, getting a suit to match was the next piece, and clearly he made it work.
Fowler's NFL future, just like his choice of footwear looks bright, a skilled pass rusher in a league so desperate to find just that on one of the youngest teams in the league. Fowler is a piece of the puzzle for Jacksonville, and a big one and even though he saw it coming all along it was still a present surprise to him to stay in-state.
"No, even if they would have taken me I would have been surprised. There were a lot of great guys and great players in that draft. For them to choose me and have confidence and faith in me to do what I'm supposed to do, I'm going to show what I can," he said.