Fowler preparing for NFL Combine

Playing in the Florida defense got Dante Fowler ready for the NFL, and the versatility he learned in Gainesville is what has him flying up draft boards.

Coming into the 2014 season, no one expected Fowler to stay for his senior year. He was being talked about as a first round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and even if no one knew exactly where he would be taken, he had the chance to move up with a strong junior year.

Fowler ended 2014 with a team-high 8.5 sacks, 15 tackles for a loss and 17 quarterback hurries despite seeing double teams throughout most games. His dominance last season, especially a three-sack performance in the Birmingham Bowl, has some NFL Draft writers talking about him in the top 10 picks.

“I think the scouts like how versatile I am, just being able to play in a multiple defense,” Dante Fowler said. “Having the experience to play defensive end, D-tackle and then being able to show that I can play out in space this year. Just being versatile. Going into this league nowadays, it’s kind of like an offensive game now. You’ve got to be able to go and just give offense fits and give them headaches because that’s what they like to do to us nowadays.”

The NFL combine takes place from February 17-23, and Fowler confirmed he will be a full participant so he can show teams what he can do in different areas of the game. Represented by agent Jimmy Sexton, Fowler knows how big that week can be in determining his future.

He’s working out at Andrews Institute in Pensacola with other SEC players like Sammie Coates and Todd Gurley to physically prepare for the combine, but Fowler said the players are also preparing for the interview process. The entire week is a big deal that they know they need to be ready for.

“It’s a huge week because that’s basically telling the scouts what you’re going to do,” Fowler said. “It’s very serious up there with GMs, owners, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators and head coaches are going to be there. It’s really just the mental part.

“They’re going to go deep (in interviews) and you’re going to have a lot of mature conversations with them type of guys. You have to be ready for things like that.”

On the physical part, Fowler has been focusing on his speed and strength. They haven’t run a full 40 at this point, focusing only on the early explosion that creates a good start. Fowler said his early times are the same as what Jadeveon Clowney ran at the combine, and the former Florida player pointed out that Clowney ran a 4.4.

He admitted that time might be slightly optimistic, but Fowler thinks somewhere in the 4.5-second range is doable.

“(The Andrews Institute) is doing a really good job of getting us prepared, getting us set up for the combine and the fieldwork drills,” Fowler said. “It’s going pretty good.”

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