Fowler showcases unique personality

Dante Fowler is different -- and he'll be the first one to admit it. The sophomore BUCK linebacker is rarely seen without a smile on his face. It's the only way he knows how to act. The self-described teddy bear doesn't have trouble flipping the switch when he steps on the football field.

"I'm just a big, goofy, teddy bear guy," Dante Fowler said with his typical grin. "I'm just nice to everybody. It's crazy, though, because on the football field I'll probably say some things and people be looking at me like, ‘What?' and I'm like, ‘I'm sorry, bro, it's football.'"

His unique personality is always a hit in press conferences. He has the ability to have the room laughing, but it's also easy to see he's passionate about football and knowledge.

The smile that's on his face most of the day isn't for show. It's who he really is.

Fowler's personality caught some teammates off guard last season. His positive attitude and joking nature always kept the locker room upbeat.

"He's a big kid, he's tough on the field but he's like a little teddy bear off the field," senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins said. "He's funny, he jokes around, I've never seen him mad."

The aggressive streak is still there. Through five games this season, Fowler is fifth on the team in tackles and has an SEC Defensive Player of the Week award to his name for his strong performance against Tennessee. On the year, Fowler leads the team with three sacks and two forced fumbles.

For as nice as he is off the field, the mean streak will always be there when he steps on the field.

"You have to. I always want to play mad," Fowler said. "I feel like it brings the best out of me. You always want to be serious because on the football field, the offense isn't your friend. I'm not gonna let them be my friend and be all buddy and pal with me. I want to break them."

And soon after saying that, striking fear into the opposition, it was back to laughter for Fowler. He can't stay too serious for long.

"I'm still a kid," Fowler said. "I'm not 21 yet. My mom still washes my clothes … when I go home. Now I have to. It sucks."

Ask Will Muschamp what he thinks about Fowler's personality, and he needs to stop laughing before he can answer. There are a lot of unique personalities on the Florida defense. Linebacker Michael Taylor is one of the most talkative players on the team, even if that talk is mostly to the opponent on Saturdays.

Dominique Easley was also laughing on dancing on the field before his season-ending ACL injury. Ronald Powell is the most vocal on the team but always jokes around.

But none of them compare to Fowler.

"Dante has a great personality," Muschamp said. "He's a lot of fun to be around and coach. He's a joy to coach. He's always got a smile on his face. You can coach Dante hard. Guys of his caliber sometimes are not approachable in that situation. He's a guy that take coaching. He wants to be coached. He wants to be coached hard. When he makes a mistake, he wants to know what he can do to get better. He's just a very coachable player. That's what makes him a really good player.

"God has blessed him with a lot of ability. But the flip side of that is the guys I've been around who are really, really good, you can coach those guys. They're willing to listen. They don't think they have all the answers. They understand they have improvements to be made. He watches the film. He understands that good plays take care of themselves and negative plays are the ones he need to correct. He'll correct them himself."

The ‘coachable' phrase isn't something Fowler talks about much, mostly because he doesn't know any other way to be. He credits his father for that.

Growing up playing football, Fowler would spend time watching film with his father, starting as early as fifth grade during Pop Warner. When he made it to high school, he would be on Friday night and head straight home to pop in the tape with his dad and go over things he did well and what could use improvement.

"He was really hard on me. I've always been a coachable guy. I just take it and try to get better from it. It's been like that ever since I was a little boy back in the backyard. My mom told him to take it easy sometimes, but I'm thankful."

Those criticisms haven't stopped now that Fowler is in Gainesville. His father can't always make it to the home games because of his work schedule, but as soon as he gets off work, he goes right to watching a replay of the game. And Fowler's phone is usually ringing soon after that.

"Yeah, he critiques it a lot. Right after the game, he'll be like, ‘I'm gonna watch it and I'm gonna call you on Monday.' So I'll have a talk with him tonight, I guarantee that."

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