Former Georgia Bulldogs cornerback Jalen Kimber making an impact in Florida's secondary

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida football cornerback Jalen Kimber could have opted for surgery after breaking his hand during fall camp in August.

It would have likely kept him out at least for the first month of the season. But after undergoing shoulder surgery that sidelined him for most of the 2021 season, Kimber, a Georgia transfer, didn’t want to miss any more time.

“Honestly I just wanted to keep playing, keep going out there fighting with my brothers,” Kimber said.

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Jalen Kimber notches first interception of his career vs. USF

Gators cornerback Jalen Kimber (8) runs back a pick six in the first half against the USF Bulls  at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, on Sept. 17, 2022.

Kimber recorded his first career interception, which he returned 39 yards for a touchdown, during No. 22 Florida’s 31-28 win over USF on Saturday at The Swamp. On the interception, Kimber made an excellent play on the ball in cutting in front of USF receiver Holden Willis while reading the eyes of USF quarterback Gerry Bohanon.

But what made the pick even more impressive was that Kimber did while wearing a cast on his broken hand.

Kimber said he learned to catch the ball in practice with the cast the day after it was first fitted. It was shaped with a shovel-like hook below the fingers which aids in catching the ball.

“You can kind of see it’s like a hand already,” Kimber said. “So I kind of learned how to just catch with it, and it just flew right into my hand when he threw it.”

The toughness that the 6-foot-0, 176-pound Kimber has shown playing through a broken hand has drawn the admiration of coaches and teammates. Much was expected from Kimber coming out of high school in Mansfield, Texas, where he earned All-American honors after posting a 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash and 42-inch vertical leap.

But Kimber appeared in just four games in two seasons at Georgia and was not on the field this past January to contribute to the first national championship for the Bulldogs since 1980.

“For him to just keep playing, and instead of going through and going to get surgery on it and stuff and toughing it out, that was big for him,” said Florida defensive back Tre’Vez Johnson, who also had an interception against USF. “He had a big moment in the game, so I'm happy for him.”

Kimber has been deployed by defensive coordinator Patrick Toney in nickel and dime coverages behind UF starting cornerbacks Jason Marshall Jr. and Avery Helm.

“It really says a lot about the kid's character because he knew our situation with (cornerback) Jaydon Hill being out,” coach Billy Napier said. “So he was in the rotation, chose to go the long haul there, and for him to make a pick six at a critical moment …

“He's been a very consistent, steady player, and hopeful that he can continue to improve.”