After paying price with suspension, Jefferson ready to play prominent role for Gators

Colorado State quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels looks for a receiver as Florida defensive lineman Cece Jefferson rushes during the first half of the Sept. 15 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

While he was in Atlanta this summer, being perceived as the new face of Florida football with his infectious energy and optimism at SEC Media Days, rush end Cece Jefferson already knew he had been suspended from the first two games of the season.

He just wasn’t ready to let anyone know about it yet, especially his teammates, who he knew would be disappointed about the suspension — and in him for letting it happen.

When Jefferson finally revealed the news to them just before the start of the season, it struck him just how much he was letting them down.

“Most definitely,” Jefferson said. “When I broke it to them, I could just see it in their faces. It was just like, ‘Come on, C. Come on, C. You can’t do that.’

“I had my nights of crying, but I picked my head up. I apologized to them. I took that on the chin as a man. We’re just moving forward from that and I’m enjoying what little time I have here left.”

Senior leaders are expected to set an example by doing the right things on the field and in the classroom. But Jefferson strayed from the leadership path early in the summer, falling behind in a class and failing to complete his work.

The academic issue led to the two-game suspension.

After making the tough decision to return for his senior season rather than enter the NFL draft, Jefferson’s mistake cost him two precious games. Sitting them out hit him hard.

“Oh yeah, that’s the thing, those first two were home games,” he said. “You’ve got to cherish every moment you get to run out that tunnel and enter The Swamp. So it hurt, it hurt me pretty bad.

“I dropped the ball a little bit with my grades, but I’m looking past that. And now, I’m getting better every day as a person. I’m contributing to my team with what time I have left. So, just taking it day by day and going as hard as I can and just putting in that work.”

Jefferson watched the first two games from the sideline.

Missing the opener against Charleston Southern was tough, but doable. It was a much different story the following week against Kentucky.

Jefferson felt hurt and helpless standing there as the Wildcats ran through the Gator defense for 303 yards in a 27-16 loss.

“I wasn’t even focused about coming back the next week,” he said. “I wanted to sneak and put my uniform on, get back out there that night. It definitely hurt me knowing that I could have gone out there and made a difference. Not saying I would have.

“It definitely hurt me a lot, knowing I could have made a difference in that game, just my presence. Not being out there really killed me and I let my teammates down. That’s what hurt me the most.”

During his suspension, Jefferson carried himself like a leader. He was there for his teammates, encouraging them and giving them advice. He also delivered a message about being responsible and doing the right thing, because there are consequences if you don’t.

“You’ve got to be accountable in every situation,” Jefferson said. “That’s just a part of being a man, and that’s what this game teaches you. You’ve got to be accountable, you’ve got to take care of your business, you’ve got to be where you’re supposed to be.

“And if you don’t, the results I got are some of the things that can happen to you. So, I definitely think the guys, especially the younger guys and some of the older guys, will learn from my mistakes. It’s just seeing that you just have to do what you have to do. You’ve got to take care of your business.”

Now that his suspension is behind him and his classroom work has been made up, Jefferson is all about taking care of business on the football field.

He got off to a slow start in the win over Colorado State, failing to record a tackle or put his name on the stat sheet.

He played a more prominent role in the win at Tennessee last Saturday. Playing with energy and effort, Jefferson tackled UT running back Tim Jordan in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter. He had two other tackles and helped bring steady pressure against quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who completed only seven of 18 passes and was intercepted twice.

“He had a great impact,” junior middle linebacker David Reese said of Jefferson. “It’s just great when we’ve got all our guys healthy and everybody back together. We’re a tight unit and a big family, and we play for one another. It’s just like when you get one of your boys back. It just changes the dynamic of the team.”

Nobody’s happier about Jefferson being back than Jefferson.

“It feels great getting back out there with my brothers and taking care of business,” he said. “Getting out there again and feeling that energy. It feels amazing.”



  1. I wonder how you can get behind on academics without someone noticing. I thought they got a lot of help and accountability. Hopefully he will perform at a high level and will learn from his experience to become a good NFL player in the future.

  2. This is why concepts like risk and fragility are important. Sometimes missing a little is no big deal and sometimes that error lingers and lingers unfortunately this one looks like it will have follow on effects. It is crucial that the program have more depth, fewer errors, minimize injuries and in weak situations do not take high risks imo. If we beat UGA anf the other less competitive games him not being there against Kentucky is going to sting badly.
    This will cost CeCe a few dollars as well. No winners and no upside with this kind of thing.

    • Actually Mveal, I’d say Cece is the winner here. He learned a VALUABLE lesson that goes way beyond wins and losses. Accountability and responsibility are quickly becoming forgotten character traits in today’s “blame everyone else for my mistakes” world. If this lesson hits home and is taken seriously, then Cece wins in life.

      Thank you to Coach Mullen for being willing to teach guys these lessons. Count me impressed.

      • I suspect that in the final analysis both of you are right. Put differently, at times in a program’s history, the fragility is so great that even seemingly minor events will have first, second, and third order consequences of a disproportionate nature. That’s just a fact of life, and Jefferson’s situation may or may not be one of those things. However, while the team may have felt the consequences, the very fact that he as an individual profited from his mistakes in a positive way — well, isn’t that what college football is all about too? We’ll probably have to revisit this situation from a different vantage point in about 4 months to know the truth of the matter.

    • Three road to s success is littered with those that failed to learn the lessons from their mistakes. Lessons learned and righted lead to a higher chance of success. We all know of those that have gone both ways. Looks like CeCe has learned from this and that makes him a winner in this instance. Every situation in life has a right ways and a wrong ways. If he has learned his lesson the wrong ways become a non issue as he will make decisions that put him in the best position to succeed.

  3. Hate to say it…but CC is an avg player at best. I hope im wrong….but ive watched much football over the years….nothing jumps out…not size..not results….just avg. No future in NFL either. Too small for DE and too slow for OLB. Out of position and loafing on many plays last week.

  4. Mullen clearly established ground rules with the team early on with the Jefferson suspension, You buy in and adhere to the standards be you a walk on or one of the best players on the team. End of story. And if you cannot buy in and be a team player, leave the program. Adarious Lemons.

  5. What B.S. If you hate to say it, then don’t. Whiny passive-aggressive experts find these places mana from heaven. Talk about no responsibility. “Nothing jumps out.” Guess that’s why Coach Mullen took him to SEC presser. A guy who takes plays off. Prove it. Too small, 6’1″, 270 is comparable to 4-3 and 3-4 NFL rush ends. Too slow, what’s his 40 time?

    • Son i dont look at size and speed. I look at results. And his size and speen are not contributing to results. And yes i am saying it in reaction to the article. I like CC. Seems to be a good guy with a positive attitude. Just said he is over rated to this point and i dont SEE any evidence that he will be anything more than avg. Not sure what “responsibilty” I am supposed to have for sharing my Opinion. But you go’head on and be the monitor puttin names on the board. Yep you were that kid.

  6. He is “average at best”. Why do you think he came back for his senior year? He was not even predicted to go in first four rounds of NFL draft. He definitely didn’t come back for his education. Couldn’t even pass a course over the summer. All these kids have to do is show up. These millennials want everything handed to them. A free education, free food, free room and board, free hotel stays, free clothes and shoes, free books, free tudors. And these kids want to get paid money, but they can’t show up to class and do their work. I’d say “average at best”.

  7. I am glad that Jefferson is now able to play and contribute to the Gator defense. I believe that he along with Reese (MLB) will make a big difference in our ability to stop the run and pressure the QB up the middle. GO GATORS!!!

  8. Looks as though this board can’t decide if CeCe is any good or not. I will take the defense with him on it and let whoever wants the defense without him have that unit. Our team is clearly better with him on the field. I expect him to play better this week. He knows his final games are coming up and I look for him to be a leader and a playmaker on his side of the ball.

    He has missed enough (admittedly) and is saying and apparently doing the right things. Why must he be crucified by the”loyal” fans on this board? Miss State is the game we should be looking to, not Colorado State.
    Work ‘em silly Gators!

  9. CeCe said he was coming back because he wanted to finish what he started. Take that as I’m not ready or maybe he felt he really wanted to finish. Regardless his end goal is there next level and this gives him a better shot at getting there with the added plus of a degree from UF which will help him as a pro or in any path he finds. He like all the others are learning a new system under new coaches he showed great promise in a few plays. He is two games behind everyone else this weekend we will see what two weeks of games have done for him. I think we are about to see a huge increase in his play. I’m not anointing him or condemning him. But i do think the doubters are wrong.

  10. I think he has been playing as an avg player, by returning and thinking pro, maybe he will step it up. As for his susp, don’t care what it was for, but I will bet a plug nickel his daddy did have a :nice: talk with him about that. He was involved in his signing. Got to get some NFL money in this house.All said and done,go to work, show some results, and all is forgiven. Welcome back Reese. GO GATORS..