UF in NFL draft – Day 3: Callaway, Townsend, Harris selected

Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway. [The Associated Press]

Many in the NFL looked at troubled Florida wide receiver Antonio Callaway and saw too much risk. The Cleveland Browns looked at him and saw too much potential to pass up early in the fourth round of the draft Saturday.

So, on a day when many were wondering how long Callaway would have to wait to hear his name called, the Browns did not keep him waiting, selecting him with the fifth pick in the fourth round and the 105th overall pick.

“I’m very excited to get a guy of this caliber and his talent at the round we thought (would be appropriate),” Cleveland general manager John Dorsey said. “As we went through this thing, we did all types of levels of processing the information.

“We thought based on things that have happened in the past and based on the kid’s ability that the fourth round is probably right where you get a guy like this. You know you have certain resources in place that can help young men develop.”

Callaway, a junior, was the first of three Gators drafted Saturday.

Punter Johnny Townsend was selected by Oakland in the fifth round (173 overall) and safety Marcell Harris was taken by San Francisco in the sixth round (184 overall).

In all, five former Gators were drafted, led by first-round pick Taven Bryan (Jacksonville) on Thursday. Cornerback Duke Dawson was selected in the second round (New England) on Friday.

Callaway already had plenty of baggage when he declared for the draft in December. It piled up higher earlier this week when it was revealed he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in March.

The positive test — added to Callaway being investigated for possible sexual assault in 2016, being cited for marijuana possession a year ago and suspended for the 2017 season for credit card fraud — turned a lot of NFL teams off. Some reportedly dropped him completely from their draft board.

The Browns did not.

“The @Browns just got the best receiver in the draft,” Callaway wrote on his Twitter account. “I can’t thank god enough and to the Cleveland Brown organization thank you for believing in me!”

Despite all the issues and the perceived risk with Callaway, Dorsey had him rated the first or second-best receiver in the draft. After waiting through the first three rounds, Dorsey swooped in and made the call at the top of the fourth round.

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said the Browns picked up a player who is “as gifted as any wide receiver in the entire class.”

The big question now is will Callaway finally get his life together and become the NFL player many think he can be?

Dorsey said the Browns have the resources to make that happen.

“I just want you all to realize one thing: He’ll understand what it means to be a Cleveland Brown,” Dorsey said. “Once he understands 100 percent what it means to be a Cleveland Brown, the Cleveland Browns are 100-percent committed to make this man a football player.

“I’ve always said this: It’s not our job to have people leave as good players. It’s our job to have people leave as good people as well. That’s where it is.”

Dorsey said the Browns felt “comfortable” about taking a chance with Callaway because of the exhaustive research the team has conducted on him.

“We have done extensive, I mean extensive, background work here,” Dorsey said. “We actually have had people go down to Gainesville. We have actually had people go down to certain areas just to find out all about the specifics of the situation.

“We feel very good about where we are and where he is, and where those things you were talking about, where those are at. I feel very comfortable with where we are to make a move like this.”

Dorsey said the Browns have developed a good feel for the type of person Callaway is — and can be with some help from the Cleveland support staff.

“You sit and meet with individuals, and then you begin to understand what they are as people,” Dorsey said.

“If you sit there and understand his situations and his life story, you can see a guy who strives (to be great).

“He actually loves the game of football, but he likes structure and he likes routine. You can see that there is a degree of humility with this person. You have to do your risk tolerance and say, ‘OK, where are we here?’ And I thought that this was the appropriate level to make a move like this.”​

As far as being a prospect, there’s no doubt about Callaway’s production. In his two seasons at UF, he combined to catch 89 passes for 1,399 yards and seven touchdowns, and also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Some analysts have said Callaway has first-round talent, and the Browns were able to land him in the fourth round.

“Obviously, that was an organizational decision,” Cleveland coach Hue Jackson said. “We really talked through that and walked through that. We thought in the fourth round, the value, the players, it was the right opportunity.

“We understand everything that’s been said, but we feel very comfortable that we’re in a good spot that we have the resources in place to help him first be a good person and a good teammates, and then be a really good football player.”

NOTES: Junior place-kicker Eddy Pineiro went undrafted, ending any chance of he and Townsend making history as the first punter and kicker from the same school to be selected in the same draft. But, Pineiro and Townsend will continue to be kicking together. Shortly after the conclusion of the draft, Pineiro announced on Twitter that he has signed a free agent deal with the Raiders, the team who selected Townsend in the fifth round. … Former Gainesville High and Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb agreed to a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots.

Update: Tight end DeAndre Goolsby and wide receiver Brandon Powell both signed undrafted free agent contracts with the Detroit Lions while safety Nick Washington signed a free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.

Florida defensive back Marcell Harris (26) is congratulated by defensive back Quincy Wilson (6) and defensive back Teez Tabor (31) after Harris intercepted a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against North Texas in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2015, file photo, Florida punter Johnny Townsend kicks against Tennessee during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)



  1. I have been highly critical of Callaway, but I am also happy for the young man. I just hope he takes full advantage of this great opportunity and leaves his highly questionable previous behaviors and criminal associations behind. Make Gator Nation and your immediate family proud of you on the NFL fields and off of them, Antonio.

    • Now that’s something we can agree on, Tampa. Maybe three strikes against him, he let a lot of people down…..but he’s got a fresh chance in the big leagues and maybe, just maybe, he’ll grow up and prove people wrong.

    • It’ll only happen if he surrounds himself with better people. He needs to leave his past behind and find positive influences who can help him and not the folks who will drag him back to his old ways. I’m sure we all hope for the best for this young man.

    • Hate to be a negative nelly in all this, but i’m just afraid that Callaway is going to be another extremely talented kid, who just will never be able to keep out of his own decision making way. I can’t even count how many guys have come out of college, extremely talented with a long history of trouble, and just aren’t able to change their ways even with the NFL team giving them all of the opportunities to help keep them away from trouble. I really hope he does get his personal life and decision making in order for him and his family.

      • We’ll have to wait and see Corey, although soon we’ll have other fish to fry and I suppose if we never hear anything negative about him again, that’s good. I hope, like you do, that he doesn’t become Fast Eddie Phelps character (played by Paul Newman in “The Hustler”), of whom George C. Scott’s character said, “I’m putting my money on the Fatman, this guy is a born loser….all skill and no character”.

  2. Now if only they could get a decent human being who can go by the rules he might work out pretty good. They better have a contract with plenty of protections for them, and none for any bad conduct by him.

  3. Flunked a drug test at the combine, 2nd agent in 6 mos., out of shape. Now he’s using his daugher’s birth as an excuse to buy himself some time before he flames out again. What a waste of God given talent.

  4. I will never forget the Tennessee catch where he announced himself to the Gator nation. The kid has a lot of potential and he has a lot to prove to himself, his family and the Cleveland Browns for taking a chance with him. I doubt he will fail if they anchor him like they say they will. Hopefully I am not wrong in my prediction. Using his owns words, “Go be Great Callaway!”. Best of luck young man and Go Gators!

  5. Townsend will be money punting for the Raiders – he may turn out to be another Ray Guy type.
    Bryan – Great job as a Gator and congratulations and best wishes as we all watch you play in Jacksonville.
    Harris – Thanks for the memories, enjoy San Fran
    Callaway – Good luck, Browns.

  6. Even with a train wreck of a season, again this year the gators just put 5 guys drafted, ranging from first down, and at least one so far as a free agent. (could be more, not sure about any transfers). Again, 25% of the players signed in a given year are looking at professional opportunities if they sign with the gators, plus a good school, good brand name, and a lot of intangibles. I’m sure this will not go unnoticed by new recruits as they chose among other opportunities that just don’t have as much to offer IMO.

  7. Come’on Callaway! Gator Nation is pulling for you. Surround yourself with good people and just do your best to be a model person. Do it for your daughter and all the people that care about you. If all goes well, you’ll have a huge payoff during your free agent signing and will have beaten the odds.
    Congratulations to all our drafted players and also to those that signed as free agents! Best of luck!
    Go Gators!

  8. From the Brown’s perspective, why not? Are NFL contracts guaranteed? A resounding NO is the answer, so for a team with 1 win in what 2 years, makes sense. I too didn’t think it would happen, but I do wonder if all the free time and loot may be more of an issue.

    That said, good luck young fella…