Gators Ready for Sunday Afternoons…

Recap of 2011 NFL Draft

By Karl Hyppolite (BA ’08)

The 2010 season was a tumultuous one for University of Florida football. After riding high for five years as college football’s gold standard led by the most recognizable coach and quarterback duo in recent history—Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow—a 7-5 season reminded Gator fans how the other side lives. By December, Meyer had announced his resignation and Florida is now a program in transition.

Despite that, there are some things for Gator fans to take solace in, like the NFL Draft, which took place April 28-30. Former Florida offensive lineman Mike Pouncey was the first Gator drafted this year with the 15th overall pick by the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night. Pouncey’s selection marked the fifth consecutive year that a Gator has been selected in the first round (as well as the third-highest offensive lineman selected in Florida’s history). Pouncey is expected to step right into the Dolphins’ run-oriented offensive philosophy after starting in every game (39) in each of his final three seasons donning the Orange and Blue.

“It’s a lifelong dream,” Pouncey told the Gainesville Sun. “All the hard work finally paid off. I’m glad the Dolphins drafted me with the 15th pick.”

Pouncey joins former Florida linebacker Channing Crowder, a 2005 draft selection, as a member of the Dolphins and should help the continuing efforts of the local chapter of UF’s Association of Black Alumni.

There was some speculation that Pouncey’s draft stock may have taken a hit following an uneven 2010 in which he replaced his twin brother Maurkice Pouncey—now the starting center for the Super Bowl finalist Pittsburgh Steelers—as Florida’s starting center. But Mike’s overall strong career, including starting at guard for the 2008 BCS National Champion Gators, looks to have held more weight than his one sub-par season as part of former offensive coordinator Steve Addazio’s often poorly executed offense.

photo courtesy of http://www.gatorzone.com

The Pittsburgh Steelers seem to have enjoyed Maurkice’s pro bowl selection as a rookie so much that they decided to take another dive into the swamp, this time drafting former Florida tackle and St. Thomas Aquinas alumni, Marcus Gilbert with the 63rd overall selection on Friday.

It seems like Gilbert will factor into the Steelers’ plans early in his career. The Steelers are led by two-time Super Bowl champion and franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and protecting him will be key if Pittsburgh hopes to make another run at their third Super Bowl victory since 2005. Gilbert will likely compete with another former Florida offensive tackle for playing time in Max Starks, a third round selection by the Steelers in 2004.

Other Gators selected in later rounds of the draft are safety Ahmad Black, who went in the fifth round to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and guard Maurice Hurt, who was picked in the seventh round by the Washington Redskins. Safety Will Hill, guard Carl Johnson and punter Chas Henry entered the draft but were not selected.

So Gator fans, expect the 2011 football season to be a bit more enjoyable. New head coach Will Muschamp, who just made an appearance at the Broward County Gator Club® Gathering on April 26, appears to have Florida headed in the right direction so your Saturday afternoons won’t be as disappointing as 2010. Your Sunday afternoons should also hold lots of intrigue with lots of former Gators peppered throughout the NFL.

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