On January 2nd, 2010, defensive lineman Dominique Easley surprised many by committing to the University of Florida during the Under Armour High School All-American game. One week later, linebacker Ronald Powell, safety Matt Elam and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd did the same, forming a foursome of five-star talent that would sign their national letters of intent on the dotted lines less than a month later.
Two of those four left school early to become first round draft picks. Elam was selected 32nd overall in last spring’s NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Floyd got taken nine picks earlier by the Minnesota Vikings.
The remaining two returned to Gainesville to play for the Gators this season.
Dominique Easley again surprised many this January when he announced he would stay in school and not leave for the NFL with Elam and Floyd.
“My mother, she wanted me to get my diploma. And [I also returned] for the simple fact that I don’t believe I left my mark here at Florida the way that I want to leave it,” Easley said. He plans to receive his diploma in Social and Behavioral Sciences next May.
So what mark will he leave on the field?
Well, he already began to leave one as a 280-pound defensive end last season. His dynamic first step led to a team high four sacks last season. He also was second on the team in red zone defensive stops — defined as tackles, assisted tackles, QB hurries, pass breakups, interceptions, fumble recoveries and forced fumbles in the redzone — with eight. This season, Easley slides inside to defensive tackle with the potential to wreak total havoc on the interior of opposing offensive lines.
This time last year, he was in the same position as Ronald Powell. Easley was gearing up for a return to the field then, much like Powell is now. Both have torn ACL surgeries and know the rehab they entail. The bond between the two is special to Powell.
“He’s like a brother to me. Somebody that I lean on if I need anything. If I need to call him at 2 a.m. and wake him up, he’s going to be a guy I can do that with. Not to say I can’t do that with a lot of my teammates, but he’s definitely somebody I’m really close to. He’s a brother to me,” Powell said.
Last time Powell was on a football field for a meaningful game, he was leading the Florida Gators in sacks with six as a sophomore in 2011.
After sitting out last season due to an ACL tear, Powell is back to team up with Easley and the rest of Florida’s defense. Even though he’s back, Powell still feels a bit of sadness about the quartet he could have been apart of.
“I would’ve loved Matt and Sharrif to comeback so I could play with those guys again because I feel like I missed out,” Powell said. “Like I said, those guys too are like brothers to me, so just for my own selfish wants I would’ve loved to go out there with them again. It means a lot to have a guy like Easley that I feel like that about to comeback with me and share this experience with.”