Dante Fowler Jr. didn’t sneak up on any opposing defenses the past two years that he played for the Florida Gators. The 6-3, 260 pound defensive end was the focal point for every opposing offensive coordinator the Gators faced. Find No. 6 and figure out a way to block him — most were unsuccessful in their endeavors.
Moving on from Florida, Fowler’s reputation is preceding him and many draft analysts project him to be a top 10 pick when the NFL Draft takes place this April. Fowler — like all of the draft hopefuls — has worked his entire life to get to this point and he’s happy to be getting the kind of adulation he has received thus far into the process.
“To be honest with you, that’s the way I always trained myself to be. I’m not gonna lie, I always wanted to be the No. 1 guy or the top person in my caliber,” he said. “I felt like that was the type of person I was. To see the recognition by guys like Mel [Kiper] and just the GM’s and scouts. I’m just glad to see my work is being recognized.”
Deciding to leave school early to declare for the NFL Draft cleared Fowler’s plate of worrying about class and homework and tests but it’s been replaced with workouts, interviews and travel. His most recent trips included participating in the Marines All-Star Challenge in Cowboys Stadium. Fowler competed in — and won — the obstacle course, beating out Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah and Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley.
“Just being able to be apart of that and to be able to be in the stadium I know a lot of greats came out of there,” said Fowler. “To win something there, I’ll always remember that.”
Fowler followed that trip up with a trek back to Gainesville to watch the Gators take on and beat Arkansas. Fowler hammed it up in the student section, soaking in Gator Nation for one more afternoon.
It’s not all fun and games for Fowler. He’s training and the Andrew’s Institute in Pensacola with big names like Todd Gurley, Mike Davis, Mario Edwards, Sammie Coats and others. The group of athletes training with Fowler are some of the top guys in the draft this year and some guys he’s battled with before.
“Mike Davis (South Carolina) is there and he’s trying to give me a little hassle about trying to take his head off,” joked Fowler. “I guess his helmet came off and he’s still mad at me about it. It’s all love.”
Fowler is being put through the ringer with the NFL Combine just a few short weeks away. He plans to participate in all of the tests and drills, not at all worried about the on field stuff, “the field work, that’s nothing to me, I’ve been doing that since I was four years old,” he said.
Still, there’s more to it, interviews with scouts, coaches and general managers. This is after all, the biggest job interview of his life. Fowler says his 10-yard split in the forty-yard dash has been timed at 1.58, two tenths of a second slower than the No. 1 overall pick from a year ago, Jadeveon Clowney.
“I’m working on it right now. To be honest with you, that’s my job, to go in and surprise people,” he said. “When I’m practicing and working on my 40 and things like that it’s actually surprising me to see what my times are. I’m going to be very confident going in to it.”
If Fowler can surprise scouts and general managers with his 40 time and workouts at the NFL Combine he’ll cement his draft stock in the top 10 and be the highest Gator to be drafted since Joe Haden was selected with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft.
— GatorZone Football (@GatorZoneFB) January 30, 2015