Commentary: Ahmad Black capable of getting job done in NFL


In this file photo, former UF safety Ahmad Black runs back the game-sealinging interception during the second half of Florida's 37-24 win against Penn State in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida January 1, 2011.

Rob Witzel/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 28, 2011 at 11:47 a.m.

LAKELAND — Too slow. Too small. The list goes on for Ahmad Black when it comes to all the knocks he's heard about him on the road to becoming a star football player.

Facts

Gators in 2011 NFL Draft

Player Position Possible round
Mike Pouncey C/G First
Marcus Gilbert OT Third
Ahmad Black SS Fourth/fifth
Will Hill FS Fifth/sixth
Chas Henry P Sixth/seventh
Justin Trattou DE Seventh/free agent
Carl Johnson OG Seventh/free agent

-- Robbie Andreu

Just like at Lakeland High School and the University of Florida, the NFL will be another platform for the safety to silence the doubters.

I wouldn't bet against him either, nor will his high school coach, Bill Castle.

"He's one of those that will probably have to go and prove himself, but I think John Lynch that played with the Bucs over there probably wasn't the fastest DB in the NFL but he had a heckuva career," Castle said Wednesday. "I think he's going to make a great player because he has been all the way through at every level."




Although Black piled up a team-leading 108 tackles, snatched five interceptions and grabbed first-team All-SEC honors as a senior, he's still being doubted by some draft "gurus."

Sure he's 5-foot-9, 184 pounds, which isn't your prototypical NFL safety. Sure his lowest 40-yard dash time is in the 4.7 range since he's worked out for scouts.

So what?

"How many times do you see somebody run 40 yards just straight down the field? OK, maybe on kickoffs. But I led my team in kickoff tackles," Black said.

I thought about Black toward the end of last college football season when his career as a Gator was winding down and asked myself, "Can this guy really get it done as a pro?"

That was before he took the field in Tampa for the Outback Bowl in January.

Black made an early splash by picking off a pass against Penn State in the first quarter and returning it 49 yards.

Despite leaving a couple of times because of an injury or an equipment malfunction, Black tied for the team lead with six tackles.

He saved his best for last in the win.

Penn State was marching down the field with less than a minute to go when Black intercepted his 13th pass as a Gator and weaved his way down the field for an 80-yard score.

Incredible and typical for a guy who has had to come up big in key situations to get to where he is now.

"I thought last year, he had an incredible year," Castle said. "I don't think there is a better safety in college football coming out in the draft."

NFLdraftscout.com ranked Black as the top strong safety in this year's draft, and what sets him apart from others isn't how much he weighs, how fast he runs or whatever else nerds salivate over when watching the combine. Boring.

He knows the game, and he's excellent at putting himself in the position to make highlight-reel plays.

"He's got a lot of athletic ability and other things that you just don't coach — his instincts and savvy," Castle said.

Black's approach to producing is simple and effective.

"I get to the ball. Everything happens at the ball. There's no reason for you to be away from the ball if somebody is running it," he said.

That's what should stick out on his resume the most. Game film doesn't lie and should count more than what a player runs while a coach has a stopwatch.

Black has been projected to go pro as highly as the third round all the way to the fourth or fifth round.

He says earlier the better and doesn't mind having to prove his worth again.

"It's the same thing all over again. I'm willing to prove I can do it. I don't shy from competition."

Skeptics won't be thinking Black is too small or too slow when he's making plays as a pro.

This guy is no draft gamble.

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