For every highly touted five-star prospect that pans out there are dozens that never reach their full potential. Ranking high school recruits is far from an exact science but every once in a while a prospect comes along that makes even the most amateur recruitnik look like he has a crystal ball and can see into the future.
Vernon Hargreaves III is one of those players.
The son of a coach, Hargreaves’ pedigree is unquestioned. Physically, he’s gifted, but it was his upbringing that really cultivated and shaped his work ethic.
“I’ve been around football for as long as I can remember,” said Hargreaves. “Being around, when my dad coached at Miami, I was around all those great players like Ed Reed, Sean Taylor. I was around all them. I remember how hard they used to work and compete. I took that from them.”
“I wanted to be where my dad’s players were. I figured the only way to get there is to do everything right and hard work. I instilled it in myself.”
The saying that hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard is true. But Hargreaves is a self-starter, a hard worker that isn’t satisfied with just getting by or being average. That work ethic plus his natural ability turned him into one of the most can’t miss prospects of the 2013 recruiting cycle.
He enrolled at Florida in the summer and was immediately faced with adversity in the form of a shoulder injury that forced him to miss eight practices in the fall.
Despite the injury, Hargreaves was challenged by the coaching staff, “I had to learn quick because they told me I was going to play early,” he said.
He’s a quick study. In the season opener — a game he wasn’t sure he would be able to play in because of the injury — he earned his first interception. It was something that he knew he would do, even if his position coach, Travaris Robinson, didn’t think it was possible.
Hargreaves told Robinson he would get an interception in the season opener, Robinson responded by telling the young hotshot cornerback that he would get beat in coverage. With the back-and-forth leading up to the game, Hargreaves had just one thing on his mind when he came down with Terrance Owen’s third down attempt in the third quarter of the season opener.
He made a beeline for Robinson to tell his coach I told you so. Robinson was left speechless, grinning from ear to ear.
“He didn’t really say anything,” Hargreaves recalled. “Just ‘I guess you’re right’.”
Hargreaves went on to earn third team AP All-American honors as a freshman — the only true freshman on any of the AP’s All-American teams as well as first team All-SEC honors. His play makes him a leader in one respect but the coaching staff will ask more of him this season. With the losses of Cody Riggs, Jaylen Watkins, Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy, Hargreaves has been asked to take the younger defensive backs that will be asked to play early under his wing. It’s a role that he’s still adjusting to.
“That’s kind of the role I’m trying to figure out right now. Last year was kind of easy for me to kind of ask them what to do or what to expect or what’s going down; now they’re asking me. I’m still learning how to kind of take that older brother role but, I don’t know, it’s a process.”
Despite the accolades he garnered last season, Hargreaves rated his first season as just “ok.” If his first act was just ok, opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers won’t be excited for the encore.
Video: Vernon Hargreaves talks about getting coached by Travaris Robinson, evaluates his freshman season and what he needed to work on during the offseason.