Eight Gators hear names in NFL Draft


Linebacker Jelani Jenkins was the first of four Gators taken on the final day of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 9:16 p.m.

The four Gators selected in the NFL Draft on Saturday have something in common. They're not leaving Florida.

Facts

Drafted Gators

Round (pick), Player, Team
1 (23), Sharrif Floyd, Vikings
1 (32), Matt Elam, Ravens
2 (18), Jon Bostic, Bears
3 (23), Jordan Reed, Redskins
4 (7), Jelani Jenkins, Dolphins
5 (31), Mike Gillislee, Dolphins
5 (33), Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins
6 (1), Josh Evans, Jaguars

The state, that is.

And three of the four will continue to be teammates.

Dolphins now, instead of Gators.

In a Dolphin-dominated draft day for the Florida Gators, Miami selected three UF players — outside linebacker Jelani Jenkins in the fourth round and tailback Mike Gillislee and kicker Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round, taken only two selections apart with the 31st and 33rd picks of the round.

“Man, I'm ready,” Gillislee said, when asked how he felt about coming to Miami with two of his teammates. “I'm ready to connect back to those guys and I'm ready to compete.

“It feels good, man. I'm going to be closer to my family and I'm just ready to play football. It's good weather to play football and everything.”

Another Gator drafted Saturday also is staying close to his college home. Only minutes after Gillislee and Sturgis were picked by the Dolphins, safety Josh Evans was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the first pick of the sixth round.

“I mean, I like the team and it's really right up the street from where I'm at,” Evans said. “Florida is like a second home to me. I did four years there, and Jacksonville is just a trip right up the road.”

With the four Gators selected Saturday, it upped UF's total to eight players taken in the seven-round draft, six more than a year ago.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (Minnesota) and safety Matt Elam (Baltimore) were taken in the first round Thursday, while linebacker Jon Bostic (Chicago) and tight end Jordan Reed (Washington) were second-round picks Friday.

"It has been a great weekend for Florida football," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "I'm proud of all our players who had life-long dreams realized by getting drafted. They certainly have worked very hard and dedicated themselves to get to this point in their careers. I look forward to watching them and continuing to have them be a part of our program."

The SEC set a draft record with 63 players being selected.

The first Gator taken Saturday was Jenkins, who went to the Dolphins with the seventh pick in the fourth round and the 104th overall selection.

“I just want to be able to help out as best as I can, wherever the coach needs me, wherever the team needs me,” Jenkins said. “I would like to go in there and be an impact (player) immediately. However I can do that, I would be happy to.

“I think I tackle real well and I also cover real well. Those are both things that I know I'm going to get better at as time goes. I think I have a lot of ability. I have a lot of hope for the future, knowing I'm going to get better. I'm looking forward to that.”

Jenkins said he also was looking forward to being reunited with another former Gator in Miami, center Mike Pouncey, who was the Dolphins' first-round pick in 2011.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” he said. “I'm real cool with Mike Pouncey and looking forward to being back in Florida as well.”

A little later in the day, Jenkins found out he'd have even more Gator company in Miami.

In the fifth round, Miami kept its Florida connection going by using its two picks in the round to take Gillislee and Sturgis.

In his only year as the Gators' starting tailback, Gillislee rushed for 1,152 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012. He was UF's first 1,000-yard rusher since Ciatrick Fason in 2004.

“I feel like I am a complete back,” Gillislee said. “I feel like I can block, catch the ball and run the ball very well. I'm a good competitor and just being behind Chris Rainey, I learned a lot. I'm just ready to play football.

“The Dolphins were always my favorite team. It was always a dream, and now my dream came true.”

Only a few minutes after Gillislee was drafted, Sturgis also got the call from the Dolphins. He was on the golf course at the time.

“I couldn't be more excited about staying in the state of Florida. My little brother is a huge Dolphins fan,” Sturgis said. “This is a place that I really wanted to go and I'm just ecstatic that I get to come here.

“I saw Jelani (Jenkins) and (Mike) Gillislee (were also drafted by the Dolphins). That's awesome. They're both great dudes. I can't wait to watch them succeed.”

Sturgis, a Lou Groza Award finalist the past two seasons, made 70 of his 88 field-goal attempts in his UF career and is considered by many to be the best kicker in school history.

Four selections after Sturgis got picked, Evans received his call from the Jaguars, who had the first pick in the sixth round.

“I just want to say it's an honor and privilege to be in this situation and be a part of a great organization like the Jaguars,” Evans said. “I'm somebody who's committed, whether it's special teams, defense, wherever I'm needed I'm coming out there to make the best of my opportunity, to go out there and be able to compete.”

Evans said playing multiple coverages at UF has prepared him for the NFL.

“It helped me a lot,” he said. “Will Muschamp and Dan Quinn. Having those guys a part of my life my last two years at Florida really changed my career.

“It helped me for the next level as far as being able to anticipate certain calls and being in different situations at game time. Checking definitely on the back end, with the safeties pretty much being the quarterback of the defense.”

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