Jefferson received sage NFL advice to return to UF for senior season

Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson scores a touchdown against Florida State in Tallahassee last November. The Gators' offense did quick work on the 38-yard score. [File]

Long before his fellow Florida juniors started filling out paperwork to send to the NFL to gauge where they might be selected if they declared for the draft, wide receiver Van Jefferson already had all the feedback he needed from professional football to make his decision.

It was rock-solid advice, coming from an impeccable source — longtime NFL wide receiver and current NFL wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who happens to be his father.

In this case, father certainly knows best.

“I have a resource in my father,” Van Jefferson said. “He said, ‘I think you need to go back to school.’ I took his advice and came back.”

Simple as that, decision made.

And it’s not something that came about in late December or early January, when underclassmen start getting feedback from the NFL and making decisions on whether to go pro.

Shawn Jefferson let his son know over the course of the season that coming back was his best play, that there will things he still needed to work on to be a success in the NFL.

Jefferson made his decision sometime in late October or early November, so UF fans, thinking the Gators’ leading receiver in 2018 was a likely candidate to declare for the draft, actually had nothing to worry about.

“I knew I wanted to come back,” he said.

Jefferson is back and ready to get to work on certain aspects of his game that his father has pointed out to him.

“I need to get a lot bigger,” said the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Jefferson. “I think I can work on my routes some more, be more consistent with my hands. Just things like that.

“More attention to detail. Those are the things I need to hone in on. If I do that, I think I can be successful.”

Some of Jefferson’s coaches and teammates might not agree with one item on his to-do list: needs to run better routes. The consensus seems to be that he’s the best route-runner on the team.

“He runs the best routes I’ve probably ever seen in my life,” rising senior running back La’ Mical Perine said.

Hamsah Nasirildeen might agree. He’s the Florida State safety who was faked out so badly by a Jefferson move that he fell down, which led to an easy 38-yard TD reception in the Gators 41-14 win over the Seminoles.

Father and son had a nice conversation about that play.

“I called him right after the game,” Jefferson said. “He said, ‘Man, that route was crazy. What we did in the summer, you can see it’s paying off.’ We just laughed about it for a couple of moments.”

Jefferson said he talks with his father just about every day during the season.

“He just gives me tips on what I need to do, things that can help me out,” Jefferson said. “Sometimes we don’t talk about football, we talk about life.”

Making decisions is a big part of life. And Shawn Jefferson helped make one of his son’s biggest decisions — whether to stay at UF or go pro — a relatively easy one.

So, Jefferson, who caught 35 passes for 503 yards and six touchdowns and emerged as one of the Gators’ biggest offensive playmakers last fall, is back looking for an even bigger season in his senior year.

The Gators certainly are excited to have him back in what should be an explosive offense.

“He’s a weapon, man,” said Perine, who also made the decision to return. “He’s a talented receiver, great feet, great routes. He’s a guy that I’m happy came back.

“We talked a lot (about the NFL draft). He manned up and made the decision to come back. I did the same. That’s my brother. I appreciate him and what he does.”


  1. I never malign kids that make the decision to leave early for the money and fame of the NFL. But I can tell you this, those that stay hold special places in the hearts of the Gator Nation for years and years.

    Cannot wait to see this guy rip it up this year!

    • Pompano – No one could have stated that any better than you just did! I still go back to 2006 – 2008 when both the football and basketball players came back to play their senior years. We have been spoiled fans since that choice from what are now legendary GATOR players. Everybody said that Tebow couldn’t play in the NFL, yet he has more playoff wins than the Dolphins have had in decades…LMAO. GO GATORS!!!

        • You are correct! I remember when they returned to the airport after winning the NC and the people were chanting “one more year” and Taurean Green said ‘cmon man we have to move on'(I was standing a few feet from him). It was clear he felt the fans were asking too much after 2 NC’s and I agreed!

        • gator-sr, thanks for the correction. My brain has flatulence issues at times due to some meds I take. But, the coming back for one more year was the crux of my meaning…lol. I believe it was T. Green that needed the $$$ the most and he still came back. That was and always be some of the best GATOR history to live forever. The Tebow quote – to me – was #1. GO GATORS!!!

      • I was thinking about the 04’s specifically: Noah, Horford, Brewer. Now I think they did leave after Junior years but they came back to repeat when they could have all left and been drafted and made millions. Instead they stayed and won another NC and then left and made millions. Win Win!

        It’s funny, I like Emmit but Errict is one of my favorite Gator’s of all time.

        I think I have so much respect for those that stay because I believe I would have left for the money and the fame at 21.

    • Sad, 65, that it is refreshing…..but refreshing it is regardless of that. Of course, how can you blame a kid for wanting the type of money available to them now? Then again, having all that money before one knows what to do with it creates certain problems too. All in all, however, bravo for young Jefferson!

      • Jefferson certainly had a much easier decision to make considering his dad is a former 13 year NFL veteran and now coach for the Jets, so clearly money is not an issue with that family. You wonder whether he’d make the same decision if his family were struggling, which is why a lot of players jump early whether they’re ready or not.

        • I absolutely understand, and respect, those circumstances Joe. It’s hard not to when a youngster loves his family that much. Other than that, tho, I still find it a little sad that college football — certainly and appropriately the farm system for the NFL — is tapped into for underclassmen. But I do understand it.

  2. cox, del rio, jefferson, seems like in recent years weve had guys whose fathers were coaching at the next level, and that has been a total plus for the program. add that this young man is bringing his talents and leadership back, all positive. after years of underperformance, im thinking this group has a shot at being one of the best all around wide receiver groups in gator history, i know they have to prove it on the field, but i look forward to watching them play, and that includes blocking!

    • Mveal, I think so too. If Franks can up his game just that much more, if Jones has mastered the playbook and if the OL gets it together quickly — no reason at all why this group of receivers (and backs) can’t make Gator history. I don’t want to prematurely get ahead of myself, but I’ll tell you bud…..I agree with 65: There is a “feel” to this team that feels pretty special at that.

      • I wasn’t on the Franks train for most of last year but the way he gutted up and finished those last 4 games and with the weapons he’ll have around him next year I think he’s going to have a real breakout season that will surprise everyone. It sure is great to feel this good about Gator football again. Bet the ol’ ball coach wouldn’t mind having this offense to play with.

  3. Good advice from his father. It seems almost every junior expects to be a super star if they leave early and of course that is not the case. If you are the best at your position and have hit your ceiling, then seriously consider leaving. However, I see some juniors go early and they aren’t even the best at their position on their own team. The millions will always be there. NFL pay goes up not down and yes you can get injured your senior season but you could get injured your junior year also. I am glad that I will see Jefferson on the sidelines this coming season. Another exciting player to watch. GO Gators!

  4. Much love to both Van and Lamical for deciding to return and make a run at a natty. It’s clear that the players have that “feel” about this team as well as far as believing that they have the ingredients to be something special in 2019 if all goes well. There is ALWAYS a certain measure of luck with injuries , etc that is beyond anyone’s control that is a part of every season , IMO some of the best teams we have ever fielded didn’t even win the SEC, much less a natty. As someone else said its not our place to judge these kids on their decisions to stay or leave for the league, but just be glad for the ones that can and do come back for anther year. Not to take anything away from Jefferson’s decision to stay ( I am elated ), but it is a lot easier decision to make with an NFL dad than someone like ” retire moms ” with a single mother who’s working 2 jobs and living in a crime infested hood. I am happy for them all and wish them the greatest success whatever they decide. Once a Gator, always a Gator ! GO GATORS !

  5. Love Van Jefferson. He’s smooth. He already looked a bit more mature, more polished than most other receivers. I think he’s fortunate that his family has the means that allow him to stay in school. It’s certainly good news for the team. Go Gators!

  6. Father knows best. It’s a time honored tradition that we seem to have forgotten about in this day of high priced pro agents and “NFL recruiting” services. Glad to hear that Van Jefferson didn’t forget. He got some great advice from Dad. Don’t be surprised if Van goes for 1,000 yards receiving this year and makes the first round of the NFL draft.

    • 100% agree. We all know that he is taking a gamble on Felipe developing into a qb that is capable of holding up his end a 1K yard throw and catch tandem, and just the fact that he and his dad have enough confidence in FF and coach Mullen’s ability to continue to develop him into a more prolific passer and offense should make us all feel good about the upcoming season. I don’t know if that is an achievable goal simply because there is so many other talented receivers that he will have to share catches with, but you have to shoot for the stars to hit the moon sometimes, right?