May 19, 2024

Florida Football: Notable Gators Overlooked in the NFL Draft Even with impressive college careers, not every Gator finds themselves drafted into the NFL. As the NFL Draft approaches this weekend, Florida Football anticipates a modest showing. Beyond Ricky Pearsall and Kingsley Eguakun, the odds of other Gators hearing their names called are slim.

However, history demonstrates that being drafted high doesn’t guarantee a successful NFL career, just as being undrafted doesn’t preclude one. Here are five players from Florida’s history who went undrafted but left their mark either through their college achievements or their subsequent NFL careers.

Florida Gators 2021 Roster Talent Breakdown: Offense | GatorCountry.com

Florida Football: Unheralded Stars

Shane Matthews: Amidst the rebuilding phase of the 1980s sanctions, Shane Matthews emerged as a pivotal figure for Florida Football. Despite not being drafted in 1993, Matthews’ leadership under coach Spurrier propelled the Gators to their first 10-win season in 1991. His collegiate career boasted impressive stats, yet his NFL journey began undrafted, leading to a respectable career spanning from 1993 to 2006.

Ben Hanks Sr.: Though often overshadowed by Spurrier’s initial success and the subsequent national title, linebacker Ben Hanks Sr. played a crucial role in the formidable 1995 defense. Despite being an All-SEC standout, he went undrafted in 1996, yet his contributions to the Gators’ defense are fondly remembered.

Lawrence Wright: A defensive stalwart, Wright anchored the Florida defense with his remarkable play. Despite accolades like the Jim Thorpe Award and All-American honors, he remained undrafted in 1997. Nonetheless, his stint with the Cincinnati Bengals showcased his talent before his football career concluded.

Earnest Graham: A contender for the Gators’ running back Mount Rushmore, Graham left an indelible mark on Florida Football. Despite his impressive rushing yards and touchdowns, he faced the same fate as others on this list, going undrafted. However, his tenure with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers illustrated his resilience and skill on the field.

Trey Burton: While not a standout during his time at Florida, Burton’s versatility caught the eye of NFL scouts, albeit not enough to secure him a draft spot in 2014. Nevertheless, he carved out a respectable seven-year career, notably contributing to the “Philly Special” during Super Bowl 52.

These Gators, though undrafted, exemplify the unpredictability of NFL success and serve as a reminder that talent often transcends draft day selections.

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