Former Florida receiver Antonio Callaway caught passes in stride Wednesday morning at UF’s Indoor Practice Facility.
An hour earlier, former UF and NFL safety Matt Elam ran a 40-yard dash shirtless before a gaggle of NFL coaches and scouts.
Florida’s Pro Day on Wednesday was about second chances for both Callaway and Elam, who are out to prove that they both not only have the ability, but the character to stick with an NFL team.
Callaway was suspended for UFs entire 2017 season for being one of nine players involved in a credit card fraud scheme. He was also cited for marijuana possession in May of 2017 and accused, though eventually exonerated, in a Title IX sexual assault case stemming from an incident in December of 2015.
“That experience right there, taking football, me away from the game I love, it humbled me,” Callaway said. “It just showed me how much more I loved the game than I thought I loved it.”
Callaway also said he regretted letting down his coaches and teammates by not being available last fall.
“I know I could have been (there) and took a lot of pressure off a lot of players,” Callaway said.
“Yeah, it hurt. But I can’t cry over spilled milk. It’s in the past. They’re on a whole new season, whole new coaching staff, whole new everything and so fresh start for the Gators.”
The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Callaway was UF’s most dynamic offensive player in 2015 and 2016, helping lead the Gators to back-to-back SEC East titles. In 2015, Callaway had 35 catches for 678 yards and four TDs, and followed that up with 54 catches for 721 yards and three TDs in 2016. Callaway also had two punt returns for TDs as a freshman and a kickoff return for a TD as a sophomore.
As a result, Callaway could still get picked in the second or third round of the NFL draft, despite his off-field baggage. Callaway ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash in last month’s NFL Combine. He chose not to run the 40 on Wednesday, but took part in the shuttle run, caught passes from former teammate Austin Appleby and fielded punts.
Off the field, Callaway insists fatherhood has changed him. His 6-week-old daughter, Aulani, attended the pro day on Wednesday.
“I ain’t got no choice but to make the right decisions,” Callaway said.
As for the message that Callaway is trying to convey NFL teams: “I’m a great person,” he said. “I’m not this bad person that the media portrays. I mean, I can’t stress it enough. I just gotta … actions. Let my actions speak for me.”
A former All-American safety at Florida, Elam was a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013 and started 26 games in his first two NFL seasons. But Elam missed the entire 2015 with a torn bicep muscle and played only nine games in 2016.
In February of 2017, Elam was arrested for possession of 1.26 grams of marijuana and 3.1 grams of oxycodone. Though charges in the case were eventually dropped, the Ravens chose not to pursue a new contact with Elam shortly after the arrest was made.
Elam sat out the entire 2017 season but at 26, still feels like he has the ability to play in the NFL. Elam ran the 40-yard dash Wednesday in the 4.4-4.5 second range.
“I’ve been trying to get myself right mentally and family — to show these people that I deserve a second chance and the opportunity to do this game that I love, that I’ve been doing all my life,” Elam said.
Florida coach Dan Mullen invited both Callaway and Elam to Pro Day despite their past issues. In total, 18 players with UF ties took part in the event, including defensive lineman Taven Bryan, a projected first-round pick. Close to 50 NFL coaches and scouts attended the event, including Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
“I’m a big believer that people deserve second chances in life and in everything,” Mullen said. “They’re part of the Gator family. They’re part of this family. You look at Matt as a guy that has made the NFL, had some issues, wanted to come back and just show everybody what he can do. … We want to make sure they have the opportunity to showcase themselves in front of these coaches to show what they can do.”