Florida Gators stars Jachai Polite, Jawaan Taylor declare for 2019 NFL Draft

By Adam Silverstein
December 31, 2018
Florida Gators stars Jachai Polite, Jawaan Taylor declare for 2019 NFL Draft

Image Credit: @GatorsFB / Twitter

Just a couple days after the No. 10 Florida Gators blasted the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines 41-15 in the 2018 Peach Bowl with a full compliment of players, Florida is beginning to feel the sting of some early departures.

Juniors defensive end Jachai Polite and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor have formally declared that they will leave school early and be eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft. The duo join junior defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who declared the same at the end of the regular season but suited up for the Gators in the Peach Bowl and nabbed two interceptions in the game, including a late pick six.

Polite was outstanding for Florida in 2018 with 11 sacks (three short of Alex Brown’s program record) and 16 tackles for loss on the season. He was a consistently disruptive presence on the line and also forced five fumbles on the season while breaking up four passes and hurrying the quarterback on three other occasions.

“From the very first day I stepped on campus, we made it our mission to grind the hardest, play the smartest and be the best Gators we possibly can be,” Polite said at the start of his announcement. “Gainesville has become a second home for me, and the brothers that I have made on this team will remain my brothers for life. … Without question, my blood will always bleed orange and blue. With our 2018 season coming to an end, I have decided to announce my intention to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.

“Gator Nation will always hold a special place in my heart. I can’t wait to prove to NFL teams that I can be and will be the best defensive lineman in the NFL. The lessons I have learend in Gainesville will carry with me to the next level, with my goal always being the same … #RetireMoms! … We’ll talk soon Gator Nation but for now, I leave you with this…SHEESH!!!! All love and Go Gators!!!”

Polite’s has used the Twitter handle “@RetireMoms” since joining Florida as a high school prospect. He appears closer than ever to succeeding in his mission.

Taylor had a standout season on the offensive line for the Gators and is among the top-rated tackles in the upcoming draft. For a unit that was thin from a depth and talent perspective, he did a fantastic job helping keep redshirt sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks‘s jersey clean for much of the season.

“I have enjoyed the truly remarkable experience of being a Florida Gator, where y teammates have made me a better player each and every day,” said Taylor in his statement. After thanking his coaches and both the athletic and academic training staff, he continued. “I want to thank Gator Nation for being the most loyal and supportive fans in the country! My journey as a Florida Gators has prepared me to take that next step, and I therefore announce that I will forego my senior season and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.”

There may be further departures to come for Florida over the next few days, but thus far, the three players that declared are all expected to be selected rather high in the draft. Polite is a sure-fire first-round selection, and Taylor may be as well. Gardner-Johnson is expected to be a second-day selection.

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