Florida's Slaton, Wilson have chance at history with former American Heritage teammates

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida defensive lineman Tedarrell "TJ" Slaton works during a drill at Florida Pro Day on campus last week.

Florida teammates Tedarrell “TJ” Slaton and Marco Wilson have a chance to become part of history at the upcoming NFL draft. 

Slaton and Wilson signed with the Gators in the 2017 class out of American Heritage (Plantation), one of the state’s premier high school programs and one that could set a draft record with seven players selected from one high school. 

Along with Slaton and Wilson, the list of AHS alums expected to hear their name called between April 29 and May 1 include Auburn wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert, Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II and Michigan tight end Nick Eubanks. 

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Wilson’s inclusion among the group may have been surprising to some fans who’ve yet to forgive him for what transpired last season, but it didn’t surprise his longtime teammate. 

“My teammates killed it. I feel like Marco killed it, especially his vert. He’s probably gonna end up going viral,” Slaton said after UF’s Pro Day last week. “His vert was crazy. He threw up 26 reps right behind me. I had 27. His 40 was great, too. He’s just a natural-born athlete, very strong guy. He’s got a bright future.” 

Slaton knew Wilson had something to prove — it was clear from watching him test throughout the afternoon he had money on the mind. Anyone thinking it was due to the online criticism and harassment Wilson’s has faced since that fateful shoe toss, however, should think again. 

“He stayed away from it. He always told us never bring negative energy to him. He doesn’t want to see anything negative or us trying to show him what the press has been saying about him,” Slaton said. “But I really believe that he came out and showed them that he’s a playmaker.”

So did Slaton. 

The interior defensive lineman looked to have slimmed down for Florida’s Pro Day, and it paid off in his workouts. Slaton ran the 40-yard dash in 5.09 seconds, an impressive mark considering he weighed in at 330 pounds. Slaton also registered a 29-inch vertical leap and a 109-inch broad jump, two figures that are slightly above average for defensive line prospects entering the draft. 

“I feel like it went well,” Slaton said. “I just wanted to show teams my athleticism, how quick and fast I am. That was my biggest approach. My trainers focused more on my 40 and minimizing my time.” 

There’s no telling where they’ll go, though all that matters to Slaton and Wilson is making it to the league — if there’s anything the two have exemplified at Florida since arriving from  American Heritage, it’s flexibility. Pro Day measurements and metrics matter, but the variability may be their most desirable asset. 

“They want to see me on both fronts, a 3-4 or a 4-3. Being with (Todd) Grantham these last three years, he plays back and forth switching up his front. So I’m pretty durable at both and I’m confident with both,” Slaton said. “I don’t really prefer either one.”

It’s a sentiment Wilson agrees with. Like the vitriol spewed in his direction following the loss to LSU, he’s focused on the near-future and hearing none of it. 

“I’ve honestly never looked at any draft boards," Wilson said. "I honestly don’t care about where I get drafted. I just know I need a foot in the door for the NFL. I know once I get in the NFL I can show the ability I have. I know I can play, I know I can start on an NFL team. I know I can make plays. I’m not worried about being CB1. Everybody said they get caught up in that. I’m just here to work. I’m just here to elevate my game, elevate my mental.”

Florida defensive back Marco Wilson completes a speed drill during Florida's Pro Day last week.