Senior Rebel DE Fadol Brown was seriously contemplating going pro after the 2015 season, but a stress fracture in his foot that needed repairing and rehab and a "stay in school" NFL draft evaluation change his mind, but not his determination.
"I didn't take the draft evaluation as a bad thing. I just took it is another opportunity to prove everyone wrong - that's how I look at it," said Fadol, still in a boot 14 weeks post surgery. "I just have to go back to work and work even harder. That's all there is to it. It's not a negative - it's a chance for growth and improvement."
It's a stroke of luck for the Rebels because with the graduation of DE C.J. Johnson, DT Robert Nkemdiche, and DT Woodrow Hamilton and the uncertainty of the return of DT Issac Gross, to lose Brown early to the draft would have been a big blow to that unit's talent pool.
"Of course we would have encouraged him to go and wished him all the best if his evaluation had come back better for him, but I can't lie - we are glad to have Fadol back," said Coach Hugh Freeze. "His experience and athletic ability will be a major factor for us next year."
Fadol has no regrets.
"Once I heard the feedback, I never looked back. I now what I needed to do. I sat down with Coach Freeze and (AD) Mr. Ross (Bjork) and we talked like grown men about what I needed to do. I took it all in and went back to work," he stated.
And what did the eval say specifically?
"That I need to be more of a dog on the field - unblockable across the board, every play. I need to consistently make plays. That's it," he noted. "I think I flipped that switch in my rehab and workouts and stuff. I feel stronger than ever. I feel good. As for my foot, I'm just taking it day by day, not rushing anything. The more time I take, the better it will be and the better I will be prepared to help my teammates around me and help my own cause down the road. I'm doing everything the trainers and doctors are telling me to do and I'm going to come back stronger than ever in August."
Fadol believes the defensive line will be a strength of the team, again, in '16.
"We don't get complacent. We come to work every day. We go hard at everything we do. We know if we don't, it shows on Saturdays," he explained. "We'll keep working hard every day to get ready for Florida State. The D-Line will be good again. The offense looks like it will be good again. Chad (Kelly) looks great this spring and we all know the importance of a great QB, which he is," Brown noted. "I think we will be real good."
Specifically up front, Fadol loves what he is seeing this spring.
"We've got some young cats who are really stepping up their games. Breeland (Speaks) could be as good as Robert (Nkemdiche), maybe better. Rob is a freak, but Breeland can be too. D.J. Jones has taken his game to another level and is bordering on freak status to me," he assessed. "I like the talent in that room. We're deep and I feel comfortable.
"Look at Benito Jones, for instance. He's very young, but he's so strong and so far ahead of most freshmen. He's throwing guys around already. He's got a lot to learn, but he's got all the tools and all the desire to get it done. He's an exciting young cat to watch develop. Bottom line, I think we are going to be real good up front again. Certainly, Rob being a freak and blowing things up made it easier on all of us, but we have other guys who can blow things up too, like Breeland, D.J. and Marquis Haynes, who is wall-to-wall every down. We will be fine."
In the meantime, Fadol is plugging away at his rehab and anxiously awaiting his full return and a chance, in a way, at redemption.
"I want to show the NFL evaluation was off. I will do that in the next nine months," he closed.