Gator Country’s Andrew Spivey had the chance to catch up with former Gator Dominique Easley as he continues to rehab his knee and prepare for the NFL Combine and draft.
Easley was having a stellar senior season and likely would have been a high first round pick if he was able to maintain that level of play throughout the season. Unfortunately, Easley suffered his second torn ACL during a non-contact drill in practice.
The injury forced Easley to leave Gainesville prematurely, heading to Pensacola and into the trustworthy hands of Dr. James Andrews for surgery and rehabilitation. He’s attacked the rehab process and having gone through it once before has aided him this time around.
We spoke to Easley about his injury, how his rehabilitation is going, the interactions he’s had with NFL teams, how he is preparing for the draft, the 2010 recruiting class and their rocky start at Florida and some of the players still in Gainesville who Easley things will help the Gators get back on top in 2014.
Gator Country: How’s training going?
Easley: “Going good.
GC: What concerns have you heard from NFL teams through the process so far?
Easley: “I can’t really tell them nothing, I just gotta show them when I’m able to. Obviously it’s a concern because I’ve had two ACL [surgeries]. As long as I show them, I mean, nowadays everyone had ACL injuries, so I just have to show them that I’m back. I’m back and I didn’t lose a step.”
GC: How is the whole recovery process going?
Easley: “It’s going good. I feel like I’ve progressed real fast because I’ve already gone through this, so I know the precautions to take and what I am able to do, what I should be able to feel. I already went through it, you know?”
GC: What thoughts and emotions went through your head when you got the news about your injury?
Easley: “When it happened, obviously, I was heartbroken. I just had to get over it. The faster I got over it and realized that it was just life and that things happen for a reason, the better off I was going to be instead of just sitting there and being depressed.”
GC: Having torn an ACL before, did you know right away what the injury was?
Easley: “At first I thought it was actually my meniscus. I kind of knew it was my ACL but I was hoping that it was just my meniscus. I was walking on it fine after it happened but after a little while I knew what was going on.”
GC: You were cleared to start jogging during the Senior Bowl week. Do you have a timetable to start running and doing football specific drills?
Easley: “You gotta go by, you gotta take it day-by-day. There’s not really a timetable, I just have to take it day-by-day and see what’s going on.”
GC: What do you plan on being able to do at the combine?
Easley: “I’m not sure yet. I’ll just take that at the combine.”
GC: What are you physically able to do right now?
Easley: “I’m doing everything right now, just not full-on speed.”
GC: Moving away from your injury, what was your senior season like with a new defensive line coach in Brad Lawing? What did he teach you?
Easley: “He made me understand the defense and pass-rush schemes. I consider him to be a genius in pass-rush schemes.”
GC: Did his experience help you out?
Easley: “Oh, yeah, of course. It helped me out a lot, being coached by him.”
GC: Even though you only had a limited time with him, do you feel like he made you better?
Easley: “Yeah, definitely. He took me to another level. As I grew in maturity, he helped me grow more on the football field.”
GC: You seemed to really turn the corner during your junior season against FSU and then really in the Sugar Bowl. Is there something that happened at that time that changed?
Easley: “It was just my mental state of mind. The Sugar Bowl was the best I had felt mentally about my knee up to that point.”
GC: Losing you and Ronald Powell if a big hit for the defense and the focus now shifts to Dante Fowler to pick up where you guys left off. Is he ready to take that next step?
Easley: “That’s gonna be, he’s a freak. I consider him to just be a complete freak. As long as he keeps working like he was working when I was there, the sky is the limit for him.”
GC: How about some of the freshmen defensive linemen? How was their progression throughout the season?
Easley: “I think they started coming along towards the middle of the season. They started realizing that there’s a lot out there in football. All you gotta do is work at it. They started working and I think you’re gonna see a lot out of them next year.”
GC: A lot like you, Caleb Brantley came to Florida with a high ranking and a lot of hype and expectations. What did you see out of him last season?
Easley: “I didn’t worry about being no big name in high school. Me, I came from New York, and football isn’t big in New York. He [Brantley] just has to buy in, he bought in and he’s good now.”
GC: Did any one linemen stand out in particular?
Easley: “I think Joey Ivie stood out. He has a motor.”
GC: Where are the Gators? How far away are they from getting back to the top of the SEC East?
Easley: “They’re close. They’re going to be right back to where they used to be. They just have to be disciplined and do things the right way. I think after this last year they realized that it don’t come easy.”
GC: He wasn’t the head coach when you committed to Florida but what was your relationship like with Will Muschamp?
Easley: “I love it. He was a player so he runs the program into the players favor because he understands what we go through on an every day basis.”
GC: Going back to 2010, your freshman season, you were part of a highly-touted recruiting class and some of the upperclassmen didn’t seem to appreciate the hype that you guys came in with, particularly Mike Pouncey.
Easley: “We were just young. We were young, we were immature, we didn’t know no better. We had to mature.”
GC: Was there an event or something that happened that caused the older players to speak out in the media about your recruiting class?
Easley: “I don’t know. I never had a problem with them. I don’t know. We were just young. Everyone goes through their freshmen phases. We just had to grow up.”
GC: You are really close with Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam, have they given you any advice about how to handle this whole draft process?
Easley: “Sharrif is like my brother, I talk to him every day. As I go through the process he’s telling me about it. I’m not really worried about it. He just said be yourself and be professional, that’s all.”
Easley will be in Indianapolis, Indiana this week to weigh in, go through medical tests and meet with NFL teams this week for the NFL combine. He won’t participate in on the field drills but is working towards being able to, hopefully, be able to participate in some form at Florida’s pro day in March.