Path to NFL Goes Through Gainesville

Sometimes numbers don't lie. In this case, they are pretty amazing. The University of Florida football program is doing something right and the proof is certainly in the numbers. The bottom line is, if you are a high profile five-star or four-star prospect and want to win championships and get drafted, Florida has become the place to look for that to happen.

The top high school football prospects will tell you they want to go to college to win championships. Of course they do. But, they also would like to eventually make money playing the game they are good at. Along the way, if they can win some games and a championship or two, that would be great. At Florida, both are happening.

Coming off of one of if not the most successful NFL drafts for the Gators in the program's history, it is interesting to take a look back at the players that are finding their way into the draft and into the National Football League that have been recruited by Urban Meyer and his staff at Florida.

The numbers speak for themselves, and here is what they say...If you are a four- or five-star recruit and you sign and finish your college career at Florida without a debilitating injury, you will get a chance in the NFL. Here is the proof...

Only the 2005, 2006, and 2007 recruiting classes are eligible to declare for the draft. In those classes there have been 13 Scout.com five-star prospects that either finished or are still finishing their careers at Florida. Of those 13, seven have finished and moved on from their college careers and an amazing 100% of those seven were drafted into the NFL.

In the last three years the Gators had three first-rounders in Reggie Nelson, Percy Harvin, and Tim Tebow...two second-rounders in Brandon Spikes and Carlos Dunlap...and then Major Wright in the third round and Aaron Hernandez in the fourth round. All of these prospects were recruited and signed by Urban Meyer as Gators.

The four-star prospects haven't fared bad either. Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey, Riley Cooper, Jermaine Cunningham, and Dustin Doe were the only four-star prospects that Meyer signed from the 2006 and 2007 classes that finished their careers in good standing as a Gator. In that group, Doe is the only four-star not to be drafted. He is awaiting a free agent call that should come any day now.

In the much maligned 2005 class, only seven players actually finished their careers as Gators in good standing and uninjured. We already mentioned Reggie Nelson. Kestahn Moore is still on the Kansas City Chiefs roster and he signed with Denver as a free agent after last year's draft. David Nelson (Bills) and Ryan Stamper (Lions) signed free agent contracts shortly after the draft ended on Saturday. Scout.com three-star receiver Louis Murphy was a third round pick of the Raiders last year and was a rookie star for Oakland. Kicker Jonathan Phillips gave up football to go to law school.

If you are keeping count, that is 14 of the 15 eligible four- and five-star recruits that have signed with Urban Meyer and company since 2005 and finished their college career at Florida that are currently under contract to any one of the 32 NFL teams. A contract for Doe this week could make it a 100% success rate.

If you think this is going to end there, you need to look again. Four- and five-star prospects will sprinkle the starting line up again this year at Florida. The seniors of the group include starting offensive linemen Marcus Gilbert (4-stars), Michael Pouncey (4), and Carl Johnson (5). Senior receiver Carl Moore (5) will likely start. Senior defensive ends Duke Lemmens (4) and Justin Trattou (5) will likely start. Senior linebackers A.J. Jones (4) and Brandon Hicks (4) are also likely to start. Ahmad Black (4) is another senior expected to start at safety. Chas Henry (4) will likely be the top punter eligible for the draft in 2011.

There have certainly been four- and five-star prospects that have come and gone through the Florida program in the last five years before finishing their college careers. They strayed because they couldn't handle the competition or because of various off-the-field issues. But, if you are a highly sought after prospect and you are willing to come to Florida and work hard to make yourself and your team better, you will benefit from the rewards at the end of the path. That reward being making money playing a game that most would love to play for money.

After having nine players selected in the 2010 draft, all of which Urban Meyer recruited, signed, and coached, he can now boast and relish the fact that they have lived up to their end of any bargain they made with these star players.

"I'm proud of all of our players who now have a chance to fulfill a life-long dream and play in the NFL," Meyer stated after the first round of this weekend's draft in which three Gators were selected. "When we were recruiting them we sat in their living rooms and we talked about graduating, winning championships, and going to the NFL. It's something special to see that happen. I look forward to watching them and having them back around our program."

At the end of the day, Meyer and his staff at Florida have almost a 100% success rate for their top prospects to sign pro football contracts. That is a promise they make to these top prospects and at Florida it is a promise they can now prove with facts.

If you are a top prospect and want to play football for a long time...you better look at Florida.


Fightin Gators Top Stories