By Kevin Brockway/Special to Gatorsports.com
INDIANAPOLIS — The three Florida receivers at the NFL Combine this week have put together a friendly wager to see who will post the fastest 40 time.
Freddie Swain didn’t hesitate to project the winner.
“Me, of course,” Swain said.
Former UF receivers Swain, Van Jefferson and Tyrie Cleveland will be competing with not just each other, but other top college wide receivers from throughout the country in an effort to improve their NFL draft stock.
“It kind of makes the transition easy, not being here by yourself,” Swain said. “So I’ve got Van and Tyrie here with me, it just makes a smooth transition. We’re just having fun, taking it all in.”
Swain said he doesn’t look at it like the three receivers competing against one another this week, even though that competition drove them throughout the 2019 season. He said there’s a strong bond between all three receivers, but credited UF football coach Dan Mullen for creating a competitive atmosphere in practice, tracking receptions, yards and even blocks.
“Seeing somebody go for 200 yards in practice and you only had 70, it’s going to make you harder just because you have a competitive drive in you,” Swain said. “I think that set the tone for us.”
Of the three receivers at the combine, Jefferson’s draft stock is currently the highest. Jefferson is projected as a third- to fifth-round pick based on his route running ability and good hands. He finished his senior season at Florida with 49 catches for 657 yards and six TDs.
“I thought I had a successful year,” Jefferson said. “A lot of people had a successful year, we won a New Year’s Six bowl, we went to the Orange Bowl.”
Jefferson said he’s high on the future of the program under Mullen as he enters his third season as UF’s coach.
“I feel like they can win it all this year,” Jefferson said. “They’ve got a lot of work to put in, but I think they can do well this year.”
Cleveland said that the number of Florida (eight) players that have been invited to the NFL Combine this week is indicative of how the program has improved in two years under Mullen.
“You can tell the program is on its way up,” Cleveland said. “The program is rolling. We’re just blessed to be here, blessed to represent our team.”
Swain said he feels like Florida has “the right man in charge” in Mullen.
“It was a turning point in the program,” Swain said. “We just bought into what he was saying. We put our trust in him and he put trust in us. So I think the program is going in the right direction.”
While Cleveland said he wants to put on a show for scouts this week, Swain said he wants to show NFL talent evaluators that he’s willing to do the little things, including blocking and special teams. Swain was a dynamic punt returner during his UF career, finishing with 308 yards on 39 punt returns, including an 85-yard punt return for a TD in 2018 against Colorado State.
“I think it’s good because it shows that I’m not only a receiver,” Swain said. “I can track punts, I can do kickoff returns, the more things that you can do at this level, the longer you will be here.”
Swain, a former North Marion High standout, said he plans to spend the day of the draft with his family in Ocala. He doesn’t have a dream team in mind to go to. He just wants to hear his name called, or get a chance to make an NFL roster.
“Coming from where I come from, a lot of guys don’t really get to make it out,” Swain said. “So any time I get a chance to make it out and show my opportunity and put it out for Ocala, it’s always good.”