Gators DE Dante Fowler Jr. tweets that he will leave for the NFL, other juniors could follow

By Adam Silverstein
November 18, 2014

Updated on Thursday at 11:30 a.m.

Florida Gators junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. announced Tuesday on Twitter that he will forgo his final season of college football and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.

“I came in with champ. I’m leaving with Him,” Fowler wrote, referring to ousted Florida head coach Will Muschamp. “Simple as that.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Fowler met with the media and said that Muschamp would absolutely have an influence on his decision to leave school, though it appeared he meant that in more of an advisory role after the season.

“I’m going to approach that at the appropriate time. Definitely me and him are going to sit down and [he will] talk with me and my family,” Fowler said.

The Gators’ leader in sacks (4.5), tackles for loss (10.0) and quarterback hurries (15) this season, Fowler is also tied for second in total tackles with 49. He also has a team-high two forced fumbles.

Fowler flashed as a freshman and improved as a sophomore and was expected to have a breakout season in 2014, which came to fruition and led to this decision.

He is widely-considered a sure-fire first-round selection in the upcoming draft, so his declaration comes as no surprise whatsoever, though players usually wait until after their final game of the season to make their intentions known. However, Fowler may have the opportunity to celebrate with the Gators’ fourth-, fifth- and sixth-year players during Senior Day ahead of the Eastern Kentucky game on Saturday.

Muschamp, who will coach Florida’s final two regular-season games, has maintained throughout his tenure with the program that any juniors on the team who receive a first-round grade should declare for the draft.

“We got some juniors that are going to make some tough decisions on their decisions for next year, and I’ll always offer those guys my two cents,” he said during a press conference on Monday. “If you’re going to be a first-round pick, you need to come out; if they’re not, they need to come back here and continue to develop their game.”

Muschamp spoke more extensively about Fowler’s talent on Wednesday.

“He’s a very good player. He’s got a tremendous upside, in my opinion. The number one thing that Dante has going for him – and there’s a lot of things he has going – is how hard he plays. That’s what they want to see. They want to see guys – football is very important to Dante, when he steps on the field, your tape is your resume as a player, and his resume is very good because of the effort that he gives. On top of that, the physical attributes he has as far as his initial quickness, his power,” Muschamp said. “He’s very smart; he can handle multiple stuff as far as the different things you game plan with him, changing week to week and getting him in different spots. He’s got tremendous upside in front of him and someone is going to be very lucky to have him.”

Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin chimed in about Fowler on Wednesday during his weekly meeting with the media.

“I think Dante is a terrific football player, and he’s an unbelievable guy to coach, love coaching him. He’s got a great future ahead of him. If he’s deciding that’s going to be at the next level starting next year, we encourage our guys – if they feel like they’re going to be a first-round draft pick, if that’s what they’re being touted as – they should go do it. If they’re not, we feel like they should come back to school and continue to work and get better. I’m not an NFL expert, but I think Dante is a really good player and will probably be drafted pretty high,” he said.

“He is a very disruptive guy. He’s a guy that’s accounted for every time he lines up by the opposition. They have a plan for him. He’s overcome that and been very disruptive. He’s played great for us. He has played hard; he has played consistently. He’s made a bunch of plays himself in the backfield, and when he wasn’t, he’s creating for someone else a lot of the time. I’ve been very happy with how he’s played, and I think the world of him as a player and as a person.”

Fowler, who was originally committed to Florida State – where his father went to school – before flipping to the UF on National Signing Day three years ago, said at the time that Muschamp was the primary reason he decided to play for the Gators over the Seminoles. He shared similar sentiments on Tuesday.

“It’s hard when the man that basically recruited you to come here – that was my recruiter really and my defensive coach, basically my defensive coordinator – just to see how great of a guy he is and just to see how far he’s come ever since he first stepped foot on campus here, just to see him grow up and mature,” he said. “He’s young, a lot of people don’t realize that, but he’s young and he has a bright future ahead of him. This is really just only the beginning for him. This is something he can say that he did, and I know this is a dream job for him. … He’s got a really bright future ahead of him.”

Fowler may be the first of a number of juniors (all with difficult decisions to make) who ultimately jump. Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard is the most likely candidate to join Fowler in the draft, though running back Matt Jones, linebacker Antonio Morrison and left tackle D.J. Humphries are also contenders to leave school early.

Bullard’s quick jump in production and effectiveness will make him an intriguing candidate, while Jones’s injury history could make a move to the NFL more appealing than remaining in college. Questions about Morrison’s off-field behavior and Humphries’s consistency should keep both at UF for one more season.

Should Fowler be selected in the first round of the upcoming draft, he would be Muschamp’s fourth Gators player selected within the top 32 picks, joining three other defenders including defensive tackles Dominique Easley and Sharrif Floyd and safety Matt Elam.

Photo Credit: Associated Press


  1. Steven says:

    Morrison, Jones, and humphries aren’t good enough to leave

    • G2 says:

      So true but look at the guys that left last year and didn’t get drafted. Seems like all of our top JR’s bail early, aside from a payday I’m not sure what that says about the program. We won’t be competitive until we can keep most of these type guys on board.

      • Michael Jones says:

        I agree with Steven. Last year’s guys that made teams although they were undrafted were more talented and readier than those 3. And there is no way to keep them on board. The only thing that will stop them from leaving too soon is seeing kids who left early before them fall flat on their face and without a degree.

        • Aligator says:

          I do recall where the NFL will start letting people know if they will go in the top 3 rounds and if not, encourage them to stay.

  2. Dave Massey says:

    Fowler would have left no matter what.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Yep, I was just thinking the same thing, he is a 1st rounder. Announcing it now rather than after the season though is showing he didn’t learn the class that his coach had. Of course he is disappointed, but that is a childish thing to do and with the season not even over, quitting on his teammates and focusing on the NFL is wrong

      • 305Gator says:

        Give the guy a break and don’t call him names. He is still just a kid, he represents our program well and loves his coach. So if he announces it now or after the season it doesn’t matter at all. Who says he is quitting?
        Good luck to him and thanks for representing Gator Nation.

        • Michael Jones says:

          Not that Ken can’t defend himself, but where did you see him call anybody a name for pete’s sake? He described a certain behavior as childish. That’s not calling anybody a name. Geez. . you guys can get so reactionary and hostile over the slightest thing.

          You can defend it if you want to but it’s the wrong time to make that announcement and you know it. It doesn’t mean that we don’t still love Dante Fowler and appreciate everything that he’s done for us as a Gator or that we don’t wish him nothing but the best as an NFL player. I hope that the guy makes millions and becomes a Hall of Famer.

          One thing has nothing to do with the other.

          • 305Gator says:

            He implied Fowler was childish and a quitter.
            If anyone is being hostile it is you. Do let Ken “defend” himself, he wasn’t being attacked, maybe he was being called out, so what.
            Fowler obviously announced his decision now in response to the Muschamp firing, why is it so hard for both of you to understand. Same thing now or later, Muschamp was fired now so he responded, it is the same in the end. Unless you imply, like Ken before you, that Fowler will now quit and play soft the rest of the year just going through the motions.

            • Ken (CA) says:

              I didn’t imply anything, you are reading a lot into what I said. However, let me clarify. He is quitting on the team. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going out and giving it his all, but how many times have we seen players change their focus from team success to personal success as the NFL got closer, without even publicly stating that is now their focus? How many times have commentators and prognosticators wondered about the impact of a hugely talented but junior laden team was going to do as the end of the season approached as to whether players focus would change. Fowler has declared what his focus is now. If the morale of the team wasn’t low enough already one of their leaders basically said he’s ticked off and he’s out of there. Maybe it wasn’t childish. Selfish would be a better term. He was angry, even though it should have come as no response and that was his immediate response, in those terms I was thinking of it as childish/immature.

              However instead of focusing on the remaining games, it is now another distraction for the team. People have been questioning where the leadership on the team has been all season, well, if this is an example of it, that explains a lot. This is not how a leader motivates his teammates to step up and play with pride for the “coach they all love”

        • Michael Jones says:

          Besides, the context in which Fowler made his “I’m leaving with Muschamp” statement was an FU to UF.

  3. Joonas says:

    Fowler needs to go to the NFL, there’s not much improvement he can make in terms of the draft.

    Morrison – 0% chance he gets drafted
    Humpries – 5% chance he goes late
    Bullard – could be a mid round pick, I hope he stays and leads the defense next year

  4. Gatoralum88 says:

    I expect all five will leave, ready or not, it’s the trend these days. Besides, IMO they’re all good enough to make an NFL roster. I doubt Purifoy and Roberson have any regrets despite not being drafted. Both are making over $400K.

    • G2 says:

      If that happens, where will we be on D next year? No proven studs except VH3. Not saying we dont have some young talent but takes more that that to win in the SEC. Couple that with a sub par recruiting class and wow.

      • senuod says:

        With a good DC, we would still be fine. We still have very talented LBs, DBs, and defensive linemen.

        The key though, is still having a good/great DC. Durkin would keep our defense relatively strong, even with little experience on the field. Little experience + a weak DC could be bad though.

  5. Rob says:

    Humphries? It seems eveytime there is a false start or blown assignment I see his number. Not sure he will actually do well in the pros.

  6. Michael Jones says:

    These are the kind of blows you take when your program is in the state that ours is in. Things will get better if Foley hires the right man this time.

    Fowler needed to go and get his money but I agree with Ken (CA) that he also needed to keep his mouth shut about it until after the season. Bullard can play in the NFL but I agree that Jones, Humphries, and Morrison aren’t ready.

    That some of last year’s guys made NFL teams went undrafted was not so much a reflection of their talent as their poor coaching. Trey Burton, for one, was underused as a receiver and misused in that stupid, drive-killing wildcat formation that never fooled anybody because Trey kept it every time and never passed it. We had talent on that 4-8 team . . that was a big part of what made that season so sad.

  7. Brandon says:

    All of the guys should stay to increase their draft stock except for Fowler. Fowler is a beast. He’s physically and mentally ready and has tremendous upside at the next level. If those other guys stay they will have a great chance of improving their draft stock and especially if the new coach is one with a modern-philosphy. Matt Jones should definitely stay!

  8. Kaput says:

    Fowler is the only one that has enough tape to get drafted highly. He’ll make damn good money next year, and good for him. (Although I always felt like he should have made more plays.)

    Bullard should probably listen to what the NFL says, but he could be a high pick after next season. Why he’d want to be a mid-round guy instead of a first rounder is a question he needs to consider. I think he should stay.

    I can’t imagine what Morrison, Jones and Humphries are thinking. Those guys are getting bad advise if they’re being told to make the jump. Jones can’t stay healthy, Humphries misses way too many blocks and Morrison isn’t that kind of player (at least yet).

    Just because you’re a junior and you think you’re one of the better players on a team doesn’t mean the NFL is the right move.

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