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.”