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Florida kicker Evan McPherson to enter 2021 NFL Draft

The rare early entry by the rare kicker good enough to merit one.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators kicker Evan McPherson will enter the 2021 NFL Draft, forgoing a senior season of collegiate eligibility, he announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

At first blush, a kicker entering the NFL Draft before his collegiate eligibility is up is a bit of a strange decision — but when you consider McPherson’s credentials, it makes sense.

McPherson was consistent and accurate from the time he arrived in Gainesville as a freshman in 2018, hitting 17 of his 19 field goals in both 2018 and 2019 and reeling off streaks of at least eight straight made field goals in each year. His 2020 was slightly less impressive, as he made just 17 of 22 field goals and notably missed important kicks against LSU and Oklahoma when trusted to boot from long distance, but his career accuracy rate of 85 percent ranks third in school history.

McPherson is also one of just two Gators to make 17 field goals in three seasons, joining Caleb Sturgis in that rarefied air.

Those feats combined would make him a strong kicking prospect even without his notoriously strong leg factoring in, but McPherson’s been impressive on so many of his makes — pounding kicks that cross the upright high enough to estimate that they would have been good from 10 to 15 yards deeper than their listed distances — that it’s not hard to imagine him catching the eye of a kicker-needy team.

And McPherson isn’t even the first kicker to leave Florida early this decade: Eddy Piñeiro did so as well, going pro with a year of collegiate eligibility remaining in 2017 to be used after finishing as Florida’s all-time leader in field goal accuracy over his two seasons in orange and blue.

For Dan Mullen, finding McPherson was one of the unsung triumphs of his early days at Florida. Finding his successor, as Gator Nation wishes McPherson well in his professional career, may be more difficult.