Fowler quick at one-liners, inside the lines

Dante Fowler brought some levity to the sometime-too-serious Scouting Combine.

Dante Fowler is about as versatile with the one-liners as he is inside the lines.

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Fowler is the third-ranked outside linebacker by Scout.com and a potential first-round pick, but he gave the top-ranked interview at the NFL Scouting Combine Friday.

He was full of quick quips. To wit:

  • Did the St. Petersburg, Fla., native who played for the University of Florida grow up a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan?

    “They’re my home team. I like the Bucs,” he said before admitting: “But they’re the Bucs.”

  • OK, that’s a fun line that takes the mentality of a fan convinced his team will never win, but it’s time to get serious, right? After all, this is the NFL Scouting Combine, one of the most important and serious times in a prospect’s life. So in this cattle-call atmosphere, the reporters need to know: What was your height and weight?

    “6-2½. But my doctor told me I was 6-3,” Fowler cracked.

  • Wait, this is strangely refreshing, a player with a sense of humor. You might not just “win the press conference” and “win the day” for the interview of the Combine, but why the heck would you be so loose when your every answer is sure to be parsed by the media, fans and maybe even one of the dozens of psychologists on retainer by NFL teams.

    “I’m just happy to be here. I’m a loose person,” Fowler said. “I played flag football. I was on a Pop Warner team. When it’s time for me to work out, I flip a switch.

    “I don’t like to be rude. You don’t want to be all kinds of grumpy and rude. You don’t want to be that. You get wrinkles from all that stuff.”

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    Yes, as it turned out, Fowler was the anti-aging prescription for journalists and analysts worn down by the agent-assisted answers often found in the pre-draft process.

    Sure, eventually it would get to some serious football business, but Fowler stressed that he wanted to also show teams who he was, the fun-loving linebacker that plays as well between the lines as with his one-liners.

    “I want to be comfortable and you’re able to do what you can do. You feel good about yourself. I don’t want to be uptight and not feel good,” he said.

    “With me, it’s my personality. My film speaks for itself. Many coaches know my football, it’s just getting to know me.”

    On the field, he proved himself while with the Gators.

    During the 2014 regular season, he had 57 tackles, led Florida with 5½ sacks, 12 tackles-for-loss, 15 quarterback pressures and a 25-yard gain on a fumble recovery. He had similar numbers as a sophomore in 2013.

    “He used to have problems versus offensive tackles and tight ends when they covered him up, as he failed to contain. Now, with added experience, he demonstrated the last two years that he can stack, shed, extend and slide to make the plays on the corner,” Scout.com draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas said. “He has improved his wrap-up tackling technique and makes every effort to arm tackle. When he gets free in the backfield, he does not miss much in getting to and taking down the ball carrier.”

    Fowler played in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defensive scheme, getting use at defensive end and linebacker.

    “It can help me a lot just because I play anywhere, I can play some linebacker to D-end to edge rusher,” he said. “I can do a lot for a team. I create a lot of problems for the offense and really just stressing out coordinators.”

    He’s also received NFL-level coaching. In his first year, Dan Quinn was his defensive coach before he left to help get the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls before he left there to become the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons.

    “He was a man. And he taught me to be a man. I was sad when he left,” Fowler said. “But I knew he was going to do great things. And he accomplished his goals and dreams just like I’m going to accomplish mine.”

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