Vernon Hargreaves III may be the Florida Gators‘ best player. He may be the best player in the Southeastern Conference, too.
He knows he’s the best player at his position.
“I’m the best corner in college football – without a doubt,” he told Paul Finebaum on Monday evening.
What is often overlooked about Hargreaves is not his ability on the field but rather the maturity and leadership of the All-American cornerback, who has played and acted like a veteran since the day he stepped foot on campus two seasons ago.
New Florida head coach Jim McElwain was effusive in his praise of Hargreaves during the 2015 Southeastern Conference Media Days on Monday for those reasons and more.
“I love the way this guy comes to work every day. The way he practices, the way he thrives in competition, and not only that, the way he takes care of himself in the classroom and other things that go along with being successful in life,” McElwain said. “Growing up the son of a coach, he obviously has been around it, and I think that that is huge.
“I’ll tell you, here’s the best thing: he’s fun to watch practice. The guy loves it. That’s what I think separates some of the guys at times is the ones that really, truly go out there and compete every day to perfect their craft. He’s one of those guys. He’s a lot of fun to be around, and he’s great to watch on tape.”
It is obvious that Hargreaves has been coached up by his father – both on and off the field – before joining the Gators. He never speaks beyond the company line and provides little insight into his life. Even on his Twitter account, Hargreaves talks mostly football and rarely comments on any personal or social issues.
As such, Hargreaves was not bashful Monday about admitting that the NFL is on his mind “all the time” and his ultimate goal is “to play in the league for 10-plus years … and then hopefully try to get to a Super Bowl.”
Absolutely no one will be surprised when Hargreaves declares for the 2016 NFL Draft after the season, likely after another All-American honor and possibly following a Jim Thorpe Award.
But while Hargreaves is not shy about his NFL desires, he spent the vast majority of the day Monday discussing Florida and how he is trying to lead his teammates in the offseason to ensure the Gators have success on the field in 2015.
“I don’t think we lost our confidence in winning. Right now, we are focused on the little things, like getting guys on time to meetings and workouts, and staying out of trouble. It’s the little things that lead to the big picture,” he explained.
“The main message Coach McElwain has emphasized so far is to do what is right. He’s really focused in on us doing what is right both on and off the field.”
Part of doing what’s right, to Hargreaves at least, is being punished for your mistakes. Hargreaves demands that his teammates do push-ups when messing up. It took them a bit to come around, but they will not even question the now-upperclassmen these days.
“The first time I told them to do push-ups, they kind of looked at me like, “Are you serious?” And I said, “Yes, I’m serious.” They understood where I was coming from. They know I wasn’t trying to be an arrogant leader, and I do my fair share of push-ups. I think they respected me enough to do them.”
Respect is not something Hargreaves has lacked throughout his career with Florida. The question is whether the Gators can earn some as a whole on the field in 2015.
“There’s no excuses [left] for us. We’re ready to get after it,” he told Finebaum.