Jachai Polite isn’t sure if this Saturday will be his last game in Orange and Blue, he just knew the FSU game wouldn’t be his last.
In a day and age where skipping bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft is more normal than oddity, Polite never thought twice about leaving his team early.
“I’m playing a regular game, like I did LSU, any game, regular playing time,” Polite said when told that many would expect him to declare for the draft and skip the Peach Bowl. “I don’t know why they would think that. I’m not that type of player. I’m a team guy, and I just want to be with my team for as long as I can.”
The junior from Daytona Beach Florida is just two sacks away from tying Alex Brown for the most in a single season in UF history. Polite has 15 career sacks but his 11 this season, along with five forced fumbles and four passes broken have many draft prognosticators projecting him in the first round.
Polite was a second team All-American in 2017 and has proven just about all that he can at the collegiate level. He submitted his draft paperwork to the NFL and received his grade back but was mum on what the verdict there was.
“Undecided still,” Polite said. “I’m just trying to focus on winning this game right now. There’s a lot of other things going through my mind, but it’s just football right now.”
Polite’s defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had a similar player when he was in the same position at the University of Georgia. Jarvis Jones had 13.5 sacks in 2011 and was projected as a high draft pick. Jones decided to come back for his senior season and was selected 17th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Because (Jarvis Jones) stayed, and actually ended up with 14 and a half sacks the next year, he ended up being the 17th pick in the draft. So he went from a second-round pick to a middle-of-the-first-round pick,” Grantham said. “To give you an example, if you’re in the middle of the third round your guarantee number is probably around $800,000. Everybody thinks that’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not, because if you’re a middle pick in the first round your guaranteed money is around $12 million. There’s value in working to come back.”
Polite continues talking with Grantham and Dan Mullen about his ultimate decision. He’s not putting much weight into Grantham’s story about Jarvis Jones, “it’s not off of anybody else. It’s all off me, Jachai. Not Jarvis.”
Still, there is something to be said for Polite being in Atlanta and getting ready to play this Saturday. On the opposing sideline this weekend Michigan will be without four starters. Starting right tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty is not in Atlanta. Neither is starting running back Karan Higdon, who has more than 1,100 rushing yards this season won’t play. Defensive starters Rashan Gary and Devin Bush will also sit this one out.
Polite never thought about sitting this game out. It’s not the player or person he is. He knows there’s a chance he could get injured, it’s football those things happen. He’s just having fun with his teammates and doing what he loves, even if it is his last chance to do it with this team.
Or, is it? Could Polite return for his senior season?
“Yeah. Why not? It’s the University of Florida,” he said. “I mean, you can have a great education, have anything.”