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Gators Pro Day: Players enjoy final chance to impress NFL brass

Florida has 17 players from 2018 team, including four from the area, take part

Fomer Florida defensive end and Baker County High School graduate Cece Jefferson talks to media during the Gators Pro Day in Gainesville on Wednesday. Jefferson was one of 17 former Florida players taking part in the event. [Matt Kingston, News4Jax]
Fomer Florida defensive end and Baker County High School graduate Cece Jefferson talks to media during the Gators Pro Day in Gainesville on Wednesday. Jefferson was one of 17 former Florida players taking part in the event. [Matt Kingston, News4Jax]

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One more step in the longest job interview is over for 17 former Florida Gators football players. 

In front of several dozen pro scouts and coaches, including New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the former Gators tried to improve on their times and scores from the NFL combine last month. 

As a three-star recruit out of Cocoa High School, Jawaan Taylor says that not many people from where he grew up get an opportunity like this. Not many people have made a leap up draft boards in such a short time like Taylor either. The offensive lineman is projected to be a top-10 pick in April's draft, possibly to the Jaguars at No. 7.

“When I got here, I just worked hard every day,” Taylor said. "I worked hard in the film room, the weight room, on the field and my nutrition improved, so it paid off for me.”

Taylor did not run the 40-yard dash at pro day on Tuesday morning. He is still not medically cleared to run due to a hamstring injury he suffered before the combine. He did go through offensive lineman drills and had 24 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Taylor points out that the work he put on tape over the past three years is what he's hoping coaches and general managers concentrate on.

“Playing in the SEC I had 35 starts against the best competition in the country every single Saturday. I feel like that definitely prepared me for the next level,” said Taylor. 

Gators head coach Dan Mullen only coached Taylor for a season but says he is exactly the kind of player he would be looking for.

“He looks better today than he did his last game,” said Mullen. "To me, that’s the guy you want to see. Are you constantly moving forward? He’s the kind of guy who has high character, great work ethic. He bought in from Day One and we have never had one issue with him. He was better last year than the year before and he has continued that upward trend. If you have that mentality, those players tend to get better every year and continue to grow and develop.”

Former Baker County standout Cece Jefferson came back to Gainesville for his senior year to get better prepared for the draft. His stock may have taken a hit following the combine after a slow 40-yard dash time that Jefferson said was because of nerves and weighing 270 pounds, the heaviest he has been in a long time. 

“At the combine, I feel I didn’t do my best so I wanted to come out here and improve a little bit. I feel like I did that, I had a successful day with some positive feedback from the coaches, so everything is so far so good,” said Jefferson. 

Despite setbacks with injuries and performance his senior year, Jefferson said not to wake him up just yet. 

“This is exactly how my dream went. Playing four hard years, having some success, winning games, winning championships, being invited to the combine, pro day, everything is how I envisioned it. It can’t get any better than this," he said.

Jefferson was one of several Gators from the 2018 team with First Coast ties at Pro Day.

Kavaris Harkless (Trinity Christian), Tyler Jordan (Bishop Kenny) and R.J. Raymond (Fletcher), all of whom played last year, were also at Florida's Pro Day.