Dripping in sweat, fresh off of a pro day workout that not too long ago seemed improbable, Dominique Easley turned a pointed to the spot near the south endzone in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium where he tore his ACL just six months ago.
“It was right there on this field,” Easley said as he pointed to the spot where he says he suffered both of his ACL injuries. “Nobody was next to me, just stepped and that was it. I knew it but I was hoping it was something else.”
“Both in the same exact spot. That’s the crazy thing.”
Easley first tore the ACL in his left knee against FSU in 2011. He worked back from that injury to return for his junior season. The decision to return to school for his senior season wasn’t an easy one, especially when Sharrif Floyd — a person he considers to be a brother — decided to leave a year early for the NFL. He chose to stay for his mother. She wanted to see her son graduate — something Easley was on pace to do before the injury — and walk across the stage.
Despite everything that has happened, Easley doesn’t regret returning for his senior season. He says there’s no point in looking back to the injury and he doesn’t expect sympathy from NFL teams or anybody for that matter.
“I don’t expect sympathy from people,” he said. “Life is not about sympathy. You gotta get through what you gotta get through, ain’t no time to be crying about something. You’ve got a mouth to feed, that’s how I look at it. I’ve got a mouth to feed.”
That mouth he’s referring to is Dominique Easley Jr., his 18-month-old son. Easley’s face lights up when he gets the opportunity to talk about his pride and joy. Easley’s son is currently in Chicago with his mother and while it’s hard to be away from him, the pressure of providing for his child is all the motivation he needed to come back from a second ACL injury just six months ago.
“I want to give my son the best. I knew what I had to work for last season, I put my work in,” he said. “Things happened, everything happens for a reason. I believe God puts you in places for a reason. So he put me in this place for a specific reason.”
Easley never expected to be back in the south endzone on this day. The Gators officially held pro day was more than a month ago. If everything had gone according to play, Easley would likely be a first round selection in the draft this year, instead he will likely fall down to a mid-round pick with a serious red flag next to his name as an injury risk.
He can’t help the fact that NFL teams might shy away from him because of his injury past — approximately 16 teams showed up for his workout on Tuesday. All he can do is show them is his passion for the game of football, something that his former head coach stressed the importance of.
“One of the questions they ask in the NFL is do they like football? How important is football to them,” Will Muschamp said on Thursday. “When you talk about a 16-week season it better be important to you, it’s a long, long year. That’s the one thing with Dominique, football is extremely important to him.”
Easley estimates that he’s about 80-85% healthy and confident in his knee. He looked powerful in drills and was fluid moving laterally on the field — a testament to his work ethic.
“He looked great. All the feedback was outstanding. Five months out of surgery, I thought he looked outstanding,” said Muschamp. “It doesn’t shock me from the standpoint of his work ethic and what he’s going to do to get himself ready.”
Easley doesn’t have big plans for the NFL Draft. He doesn’t know if he’ll be back at home in New York, with his fiancé and son in Chicago or down in south Florida where he has been rehabbing and training. He’s not worried about it. He’ll go to whichever team decides to draft him and get back to work. Easley expects to be fully healthy by rookie and mini camps and a great addition to any of the 32 NFL locker rooms he could wind up in.
“He’s a guy who hasn’t played his best football yet,” Muschamp said. “I think that’s all in front of him.”