There may be no college football team in America that can better explain that not being picked in the NFL Draft is not the end of professional dreams to one of its prospective NFL players than the Florida Gators.
After all, Florida’s Brian Poole went undrafted in 2016, yet became one of two Gators rookies to help lead the Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl.
Poole’s rookie season was almost as notable as that of his Gator-turned-Falcon teammate Keanu Neal, as Poole racked up 58 tackles, a pair of fumble recoveries, and an interception en route to the NFL’s largest performance bonus for a rookie in 2016 — larger, even, than that of Dallas Cowboys sensation Dak Prescott.
The draft doesn't end here... Just ask @JustPooleN_It who was an undrafted free agent one year ago. #GatorsAlways #GatorMade pic.twitter.com/Trtg3vHrvv— Gators Football (@GatorsFB) April 29, 2017
Undrafted! pic.twitter.com/t0rIkdBH2J— Brian Poole (@JustPooleN_It) April 27, 2017
Undrafted doesn't mean it's over.. you just gotta get it off the muscle— Brian Poole (@JustPooleN_It) April 29, 2017
A quartet of Gators will be hoping to follow Poole’s path in 2017. Quarterback Austin Appleby, defensive end Bryan Cox, Jr., wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood, and linebacker Daniel McMillian were all in the 2017 NFL Draft pool and passed up through picks on Saturday, and all will be hoping to catch on with at least one team as an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
Of the four, Cox is probably the most likely to do so — not just because he was considered a borderline pick-worthy talent entering the draft, but because his father was, until February, the Falcons’ defensive line coach, and because Florida ties in the Atlanta organization, where former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is head coach and former Florida safety Marquand Manuel is defensive coordinator, are strong.
It would be unsurprising if Appleby, who trained extensively for the draft, and Fulwood, whose size as a wideout might entice a team like it tantalized Florida fans for the full span of his career, signed as UDFAs.
But McMillian would seem exceedingly unlikely to find a home. He was arrested in early April on multiple felony charges, including attempted sexual battery — the state of Florida’s legal term for attempted rape — and was not considered a likely draftee even before that arrest.
We will update this post as Florida’s UDFAs pick their NFL landing spots.
Update, 7:08 p.m.: Well, that was quick. Multiple writers are reporting Bryan Cox, Jr. is headed to an avian NFC team — but it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, not the Falcons.
#Florida DE Bryan Cox to #Eagles— Jared Tokarz (@NFLDraftInsider) April 29, 2017
Bryan Cox Jr., DL, #Gators to #Eagles— Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko) April 29, 2017
Update, 7:48 p.m.: Not so fast! Cox himself took to Twitter to bat down the reports of him signing with the Eagles and announce that he has signed with the Carolina Panthers.
Reports of me signing with the eagles are not true...I've signed with the Carolina Panthers #KeepPounding— Bryan Cox Jr (@BEECox_UF) April 29, 2017
Update, 9:06 p.m.: Two more Gators have found homes, and homes that are already being inhabited by recently drafted Gator brethren.
Austin Appleby has signed with the Dallas Cowboys, who also drafted Joey Ivie in the seventh round earlier today.
Beyond thankful for the opportunity and I am absolutely jacked up to be a Dallas Cowboy! God is so great!! @dallascowboys— Austin Appleby (@AAppleby12) April 30, 2017
Ahmad Fulwood gets a shot with the New Orleans Saints, who also took Alex Anzalone in the third round of the draft.
Excited to be apart of the @Saints. can't wait to get to work!!— Ahmad Fulwood (@AFulwood5) April 30, 2017
Update, May 1, 9:31 a.m.: Two more Gators have been given opportunities to make it with teams.
Chris Thompson is headed to the Houston Texans:
Gator wide receiver Chris Thompson has agreed to a free-agent contract with the Houston Texans. Might be converted to a DB.— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) April 30, 2017
Houston here I come!!!— chris thompson (@youngstarr24) April 30, 2017
And Mark Herndon finds himself with the Cleveland Browns.
Looks like Im heading to Cleveland!!! More than excited for the opportunity.— Mark Herndon (@MHerndon37) April 30, 2017