Kan Li / Scout

Three Gators sign as NFL free agents

Make the tally 10 now for 2015 Gators that will get their chance at NF: stardom. After seven former Gators were drafted over the weekend in the 2016 NFL Draft, cornerback Brian Poole, tight end Jake McGee, and offensive lineman Trip Thurman  signed free agent contracts with NFL teams this weekend at the conclusion of the draft.

It’s been a busy weekend for the Gators looking to make money playing football. On Thursday, Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal went in the first round, Friday saw Jonathan Bullard get his name called. On Saturday a quartet of Gators were announced for NFL teams via the NFL Draft when linebacker Antonio Morrison, receiver Demarcus Robinson, running back Kelvin Taylor, and defensive end Alex McCalister all had their names called.

Within a couple of hours after the draft a couple of more Gators found NFL homes. Cornerback Brian Poole will join Keanu Neal with the Falcons trying to make the team. Jake McGee signed a free agent contract with the Carolina Panthers. On Sunday, offensive lineman Trip Thurman tweeted that he will be headed to camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.

When you figure that nearly half of the Gators starting lineup (when healthy) is headed to the NFL, they will have a lot of holes to fill. These free agent signings were some of the more unheralded heroes for the Gators that played big roles.

There was a lot of talk about Poole getting drafted despite the fact he wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine back in March. Running a 4.49 second 40-yard dash at the Gators pro Day opened a lot of eyes. He’s a physical corner that doesn’t have elite size but he can play bigger receivers because he is physical.

Poole had 10 pass break ups in each of his last two seasons and in his junior season he had four interceptions. He finished with 40+ tackles in each of his last two years and started in 16 of the26 games the past two seasons. Poole can play a little outside, but he is best matched up inside with physical players.

Kan Li / Scout
 McGee was granted a sixth year after transferring to Florida as a graduate senior and injuring his knee in the opening game of the 2014 season. He had a tremendous career at Virginia before arriving at Florida.

In 2015, McGee caught 41 passes for 381 yards and four touchdowns in an offense that struggled to throw the ball at all in the last half of the season. He was a big time team leader and someone the staff looked to for help with the younger players. He was always giving everything he had when it came to helping others find their way in the offense. It would not be a surprise at all if he makes the Panthers’ roster.

Kan Li / Scout
 Thurman let out word on Sunday that he signed with the Bengals. He was the Gators best offensive lineman and only returning starter from the year before which saw four starters drafted. Thurman will no doubt get a look at both center and guard. I have talked to a few that believe his future in the NFL, if there is one, is at center because he is the smartest player on the field and has just enough of everything else to be a good one.

There was doubt as a senior that Thurman might see the field. He had off-season shoulder surgery that kept him out of all of spring practice, but he worked hard and made sure to get with the young guys to coach them along as much as he could.

Thurman isn’t the biggest or the fastest lineman you will see, but he uses his head and is a true team player that has a chance to make it. He will have to work hard, but that isn’t an issue. 

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