“I’ve got to teach the young guys the ropes,” Vernon Hargreaves III said. “I’ve got to get them to know the plays, learn the plays. They’re going to have to play and play early. That’s what I’m focusing on right now.”
It’s not what the sophomore cornerback expected a year ago. In fact, he thought his first year of college football would be spent on the bench. With Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson returning to the team in 2013, Hargreaves said he thought a redshirt year was in store for him.
Any thought of that went out of the window early in fall camp when he showed he was capable of contributing right away. That ended up being an understatement, and Hargreaves was the team’s best cornerback throughout the season despite being a true freshman.
“I ended up starting and told myself that this year was going to come where I was the older guy,” Hargreaves said. “Now that it’s here, I have to mature and accept that role.”
In the offseason, the accolades came in bunches. Hargeaves was named to the watch list for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, the Bednarik Award, the Bronco Nagurski Trophy and the Jim Thorpe Award. He added preseason first team All-SEC honors. All eyes are on Hargreaves going into this season.
For some players, the coaches would be very concerned about that. It’s not an issue with Hargreaves.
“I worry about other guys that maybe aren't as mature, aren't as hungry, aren't as driven,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said. “He's a guy that if we start lifting at 10 o’clock, he'll be in there at 9:30 stretching on his own. When weights are over, he's stretching. He's a pro at what he does.”
Hargreaves was solid to Florida throughout the recruiting process because of his relationship with the coaching staff, but he also loved the reputation Florida has for developing and producing NFL cornerbacks. There’s a long list that played at Florida, especially in the last 10 years, and that means a lot to Hargreaves.
“It’s a big deal,” Hargreaves said. “There are a lot of great names that came through here. I don’t play trying to be the next great name. I try to play because I love the game, and I do want to be the best. That’s what drives me -- I want to be the best.”
Taking over as the leader of the position now means he’s the player freshmen come to. Florida had two of those freshmen -- Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor -- on campus for spring practice. Hargreaves took both of them under his wing during the spring, trying to ease the transition to college football.
He came away impressed with their mental makeup and ability to contribute as true freshmen.
“They understand it,” Hargreaves said. “They get it. They came in like I did where they had their head down to learn the plays and play early. I’m excited to see what they do this year.
“I told them it’s going to be tough. You’re going to have to go to class, nobody is going to be there to tell you to get up and it’s hard to go to 5 a.m. workouts then go to class for hours after that. I told them that, and they understand that. You have to grow up and mature quick. They’re understanding and learning. I’m going to keep helping them along the way.”