Gators’ NFL draft day memories

Tonight is a big one for all of the college football players who will get their names called, including Florida junior cornerback CJ Henderson.
Over the years, there have been 346 Florida players drafted all-time and that number will continue to grow starting tonight and extending through the weekend.
Here are a few of the draft day stories of some of the best Gators to put on the orange and blue:
First round, 3rd pick, San Francisco
“I went to my attorney’s office, Willie O’Neal, who was the attorney for a lot of players. I sat in his office and he got a call. He hung up and told me,
‘You just got drafted by San Francisco.’ And I said, ‘What? I never even talked to anybody from San Francisco.’ I had talked to Atlanta but they had traded their pick for some players and I had talked to the Giants but they had traded for Fran Tarkenton. All right, so it was San Francisco.”
5th round, 109th pick, Cincinnati
“We didn’t have any kind of a gathering or anything. I just watched it alone in my apartment. Finally, the phone rings and it’s Paul Brown. ‘Is this Guy Dennis? We just drafted you in the fifth round.’ And that was it. I really didn’t think about it a lot. I wasn’t antsy or anything. I figured somebody would take me. And it worked out pretty well.”
First round, 13th pick, Detroit
“I was at my apartment with my girlfriend at the time watching ESPN. I got a call from a coach (Monte) Clark to tell me I was going to Detroit. There was no big party. I had actually been expecting to go to Philadelphia, but they took Michael Haddix instead. I hadn’t even talked to anyone at Detroit. Philadelphia had flown me up there and they did a bunch of tests, but then they took Haddix.”
7th round, 180th pick, Miami
“We didn’t have a great season my senior year so I sort of didn’t know what was going to happen. I remember we took a picture (for The Gainesville Sun) at the mall with a Dolphins helmet phone, but I knew I wasn’t going there because they had Dan Marino and Don Strock.
“We had a bunch of people at my parents house (in Mayo), but the first day went by and I wasn’t taken. It was frustrating. I was disappointed about not getting drafted. I went to bed that night knowing I had to get up and hope the next day something would happen.
“I got a call from Lindy Infante (Green Bay’s coach) and he told me they were thinking about picking me. He wanted to make sure I wanted to come there. I was ready to go anywhere. But before it got to Green Bay, all of a sudden Miami had a pick and they took me. I was just happy to be drafted.”
10th round, 264th pick, Minnesota
“I never was invited to the Combine so the writing was kind of on the wall. Back then, if you were drafted in the top six rounds you made the team. I didn’t know if I’d get drafted or not. I was getting married to Monica in a week and we watched the scroll across the bottom for a while and got sick of it — watching Australian Rules football and waiting for the scroll — so we went shopping for the wedding.
“We pulled into my dad’s house in Tallahassee and he came out and said, ‘I think you got drafted by the Vikings.’ So we sat there and watched the scroll for 10 minutes until they got to the 10th round and there I was. Dennis Green called me and told me mini-camp was next week. But I was getting married. He wanted to postpone it. I looked at Monica and said, ‘No.’ So I held out of the first mini-camp.”
First round, 16th pick, Tampa Bay
“It was rather amusing, but it was also nerve wracking. You have seen it all your life on TV and you think you are prepared for it. But you are not. It took two hours (to be selected) and it seemed like it lasted an entire day.
“I don’t know why they give them so much time to decide who to pick. I never thought Tampa was going to take me. Dallas had a scout staying in the hotel around the corner and he took me and my dad out to dinner the night before. He gave us a different cell phone and told us to call him if someone called us. It wasn’t a burner phone. It was one of those big block cell phones. But then Tampa picked me and it was great to have so many friends around to celebrate.”
4th round, 104th pick, Chicago
“It was the worst night of my life. I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was so excited. But they pick you apart and they started drafting guys I knew I was better than those players. I was trying to think about what I did wrong. They were picking guys I didn’t think were better than me.
“I hear from the 49ers and they said if I was there they were going to pick me. I told them I didn’t understand why so many guys were going ahead of me but if you take me I’m going to be special for you. So the Bears think the 49ers are going to take me. And the 49ers take (Florida’s) Jeff Chandler.
“And I’m thinking, ‘Wow, I’m the sack leader of all time at Florida and a kicker just went before me.’ I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. But I get drafted by the Bears and ended up having a really cool career, nine years in the NFL, went to a Super Bowl, played with a bunch of guys who were my teammates at Florida like Rex Grossman. So it was a blast, but that night was not a lot of fun.”
2nd round, 49th pick, Cincinnati
“I planned to just have my immediate family around but I have a really big family and I couldn’t keep anyone away so it was pretty much a party. My agent (Drew Rosenhaus) figured I’d go between 35 and 55. So I assumed 35 because I was wanting to go high.
“It went about as expected because all of the guys who did great at the Combine and had the measurables were going. I had talked to Philly and that’s really where I wanted to go because they had Lito (Sheppard) and some other SEC guys and were in the NFC playoffs every year. I thought for sure I was going to Philly.
“I had a bond with the Cincinnati defensive backs coach (Kevin Coyle) who had worked me out down in south Florida and we had spent some time together. But I had never talked to Marvin Lewis.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to go to Cincinnati. I grew up with the Bungles. I left Ohio to come to Florida and then I get drafted back to Ohio? That was one of the two teams I didn’t want to play for. But it’s a business and I still had a chance to live a dream.”
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at