Image Credit: UAA
Star cornerback Jalen “Teez” Tabor was talented enough to play professionally this season, so it’s no surprise that the Florida Gators junior has decided to forego his final year of eligibility in declaring for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Tabor led the Gators this season with four interceptions, not only excelling in coverage but seemingly have a nose for the football. He looks poised to be selected in the middle of the first round, which puts him on pace with some of the other top defensive backs in Florida football history.
In declaring for the draft, Tabor joins fellow junior CB Quincy Wilson, junior left tackle David Sharpe and redshirt junior linebacker Alex Anzalone in departing early. It is also expected that redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley will leave, and redshirt junior punter Johnny Townsend has a decision to make.
His announcement was made in a lengthy essay posted on The Players’ Tribune, which you can read in full here. Tabor spends time detailing his experience with the Gators and explaining how the University of Florida has changed his life. Excerpts can be read below.
Where I grew up, nobody’s really expected to go to college. I often doubted whether or not it was in the plans for me. So getting the opportunity to go to a school — any school — was significant for me and my family. When I think about my journey, coming from inner-city D.C. and living in some challenging environments, to arriving on campus and seeing the Swamp for the first time, I realize that I’ve been a part of something bigger than just a football team. It has reminded me to continue to work hard no matter the circumstances.
When I think about my time padded up in orange and blue, it’s hard to think of a moment more special than our game in Death Valley back in November. Is there anything more symbolic of this program than what happened there? Think about it. On the road. SEC East title on the line. Last play of the game. We’re leading 16–10. LSU is at our 1-yard line. All the Tigers have to do is punch it in. And we stopped ’em. … What happened next was mayhem. Some of us ran over to the LSU student section where it looked like all the fans were doing the mannequin challenge. They were just frozen, with their hands up to their faces and their mouths wide open. I’d never heard that stadium so quiet … we silenced Death Valley, but we were hollerin’ and going crazy. That’s SEC football right there. It’s drama personified.
Now that the season is over, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and have been feeling pretty nostalgic. I’ve also realized something: The University of Florida has changed my life. And I don’t mean that in the cliché way. I mean every single syllable of it. Every day, I’m walking around campus thinking this is some sort of dream. I am fully aware that I would have never gotten this far on my own, and I’m thankful to everybody who helped me get here. I have matured so much since that first day. In my mind, that’s because of the people I have met in Gainesville. They’re the ones who have molded me into who I am today.
To all of Gator Nation … you gotta stand up! Y’all turned the Swamp into a party every game. Hands down, you’re the reason we have the biggest home field advantage. One hundred percent. I would hate to be on an opposing team next season. We have a lot of big home games next year, and I know y’all can’t wait for them. Keep doing you.
Even though I’m leaving for the NFL, I’m a Gator through and through. Wherever I end up next, I know that I’ll find myself back in the Swamp at some point next season to cheer with y’all. I’ll always come back and show some love. It’s the least I can do for a place that has given me so much.