Dante Fowler was quick to remind media members two weeks ago that he still had another year of eligibility left. Questions had turned to Fowler’s potential professional career but the pre-season All-SEC defensive lineman wanted to make sure we knew that he had another year to play football for the Florida Gators.
Then, things changed. Will Muschamp’s impending departure from the university hit the team hard and it may affect Fowler’s decision to stay for that senior year or leave school early. When pressed, he couldn’t think of a situation where he would return.
“Um,” Fowler said after a long pause. “Just if anything probably just develop or if they was to say I was too young or something like that.”
Fowler has grown close to Muschamp the past three years they’ve been together at Florida. The thought of not being able to play for him is something new to the Gators’ superstar and not something he has fully come to terms with yet.
“A lot of people think it’s just going out there and playing football on Saturday, but there’s a lot of stuff in between that goes on in the facility and the program,” Fowler said of Muschamp. “A lot of things that he’s done. Taught us how to become young men, young grown adults and just being ready for the outside world when it’s time for us to leave.”
Fowler said Muschamp was his main recruiter as a senior in high school and one of the main reasons he chose to come to Florida. Fowler and Muschamp have grown close with the former calling Muschamp “basically my defensive coordinator.”
On the field, despite drawing the attention of every opponent this season and double teams throughout games, Fowler has been productive and at times downright unblockable. He’s tied for second on the team with 49 tackles, leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and in sacks with 4.5.
His versatility playing multiple positions and his propensity to get to and affect the quarterback will have and has had NFL teams keeping close tabs on him this season. Fowler will have a difficult decision to make following the season. He could project to be a first round pick.
“We got some juniors that are going to make some tough decisions on their decisions for next year, and I’ll always offer those guys my two cents,” Muschamp said on Monday. “If you’re going to be a first round pick, you need to come out if they’re not they need to come back here and continue to develop their game.”
Fowler is the junior with the toughest decision — or easiest, depending on how you look at it. A physical specimen, Fowler will light up the NFL Combine and Florida’s Pro Day. His tape shows a high motor guy who can be productive against some of the best offensive linemen in the country.
He’ll play out these two weeks and then sit down with his family and Coach Muschamp to discuss what is best for him.
However, without the lure of being able to play one more season for Muschamp, Fowler’s decision might have been made a little easier last Sunday.