UF Draft Notebook

The rags-to-riches story that characterizes the last two years of Jarvis Moss' life has to be the overwhelmingly feel good story for Gator fans after the weekend's NFL Draft. Here was a kid who came out of high school as a Parade All-American, but barely weighed 200-pounds after suffering from a pelvic bone infection during his first two years in Gainesville.

Moss was all but dismissed in the minds of most Gator fans until one fateful day shortly after Urban Meyer's arrival when he tearfully sat in the new head coach's office, wondering what his future would be. In the short amount of time since that day, Moss gained 50 pounds, while maintaining his speed and quickness, earned a starting position, won a national championship and became the first Gator drafted in the first round since Rex Grossman in 2003.

On Saturday night, Meyer said the Moss story is his greatest success story since becoming a head coach six years ago.

"That's No. 1," Meyer said. "The turnaround is well documented. To go from where he was to a first round draft pick is a testimony to him and Coach (Greg) Mattison, the training staff and weight staff. If you see film of him and know that two years ago he weighed 216-pounds and now he's a first round draft pick, that's one of the greatest stories in college football over the last couple of years."

Moss will be surrounded with familiar company in Denver. Former Gator defensive lineman Marcus Thomas was selected by the Broncos during Sunday's rounds. A fourth round selection, the Broncos got a player that might have been a first round pick like Moss had it not been for his off-the-field problems last fall. Moss, however, is not someone who stayed out of the tabloid headlines himself. He was suspended for the Gators'November match-up with Division I-AA foe Western Carolina after violating team rules.

"Jarvis has had a tough go growing up and had a tough go for the last five or six years," Meyer said. "He's a guy that made a mistake, but not a bad character guy at all. He's a high character guy that loves the game of football and works as hard as he can."

Besides Thomas, there will be plenty of other Orange and Blue connections for Moss in Denver. Head coach Mike Shanahan spent four seasons with the Gators, serving as offensive coordinator in the early-80s, and defensive coach Jim Bates served as the Gators'defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 1990. Defensive tackle and former Gator Gerard Warren is also on the Bronco's roster.

Besides adjusting to the increased level of play, Moss and Thomas will also have to adjust to their new environment. Both guys grew up in the south and have played most of their football in a warm, sea-level setting. Now they find themselves facing the thin air of Denver, not to mention the snow that could begin to fall as early as October at Invesco Field at Mile High.

Nelson goes as expected

There was not much surprise when safety Reggie Nelson's name was called out during Saturday's first round. After being the premier player of the Gators' championship defense, Nelson's stock began to slip after NFL concerns of his size and strength.

After not performing well at the NFL Combine, Nelson put together a solid showing at UF's Pro Day where the Jaguars were impressed. Meyer said Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio has spent a lot of time in Gainesville studying Nelson and has made no secret about his opinion on Nelson's NFL potential.

"I admire Coach Del Rio," Meyer said. "I admire head coaches that go around and talk with college coaches and visit The Swamp and see guys work out."

A few disappointments

There were two major disappointments for Gator fans after the weekend. First and foremost may have been the drop of linebacker Brandon Siler. After being the emotional leader for the Gator defense the last two seasons, Siler forewent his senior year only to be drafted in the seventh round by the San Diego Chargers.

Meyer admitted during his Gator Gathering stop in Jacksonville last week that he wanted Siler to stay. He felt there were some things he still needed to work on, but wasn't surprised by the decision.

But Siler wasn't the only sour note from the draft. Quarterback Chris Leak went undrafted before finally signing a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears. After Leak outplayed Ohio State's Troy Smith in the BCS title game and earned Most Valuable Player honors, Smith was drafted in the sixth round ahead of Leak.

The Gators as a team did have the last laugh – AGAIN – on the Buckeyes. Florida led all schools with nine draft picks, while Ohio State finished second with eight picks.

Lots of underclassmen

Of the nine UF players drafted, four left school early. Even though Siler wasn't picked as highly as some had hoped, all the early entrants were picked.

"The NFL did a great job," Meyer said. "It's much different than it was 10 years ago with young people getting the proper advice. I think the combination of the families involved, the advice from the NFL and the coaching staff were all a plus."

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