Photo: Gervon Dexter; Credit: Alex Shepherd
In this day and age of college football, it’s become atypical to witness players stick around for non-playoff bowl games if they have their eyes set on the pros.
That isn’t the case for Florida’s Gervon Dexter.
The third-year Gators defensive lineman, who declared for the 2023 NFL Draft over a week ago, confirmed in the following days that he’d wear an orange and blue uniform one final time in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 17 and explained his decision to reporters on Monday.
“It was never a question,” Dexter proclaimed.
“We were fortunate enough to win six games to get the play in a bowl. So, at that moment, I knew I was gonna play in the bowl and finish it.”
Dexter dove into his reasoning for going pro over returning to Florida for a fourth season, admitting that he received a second-round grade from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee after requesting an evaluation prior to the conclusion of the regular season.
According to NFL Operations, potential prospects can earn one of three assessments from the committee: A first-round grade, a second-round grade, or a recommendation to return to college for another season.
Dexter weighed the grade over with Gators defensive line coach Sean Spencer, his mother and his girlfriend — as well as the potential to return and boost his grade into the first-round range a year from now — before choosing to bet on himself after Florida’s matchup with Oregon State on Saturday.
“I mean, sure, you’d love to be top ten,” Dexter said. “But like I say, coming into college, my goal was to be a top ten pick. I think, in my opinion, that with my athletic ability and, hopefully, I have a great spring and a great combine and push myself into the first round.”
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Dexter suggested that he might “crush” the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine with hopes of clocking a 4.7-second result. A flat 4.70 would be the fifth-best time recorded by an interior defensive lineman in recorded NFL pre-draft history, per Mockdraftable, and would undoubtedly boost his profile prior to April’s selection ceremony.
So, too, would a strong showing in the Las Vegas Bowl against the Beavers and their strong offensive line, he noted.
“I got some grades back and seeing what some teams thought about me and what I need to work on,” Dexter described, “this is an opportunity for me to go out there and work on them and show I can do some of those things.”
Dexter also hopes to fill a leadership void for the Gators as the team’s defensive “alpha”, coined by head coach Billy Napier, linebacker Ventrell Miller won’t play in the game due to graduation scheduling conflict and his own preparation for the draft.
“It’s just a time for me to just be a better me. Learn to be a better teammate,” Dexter said. “As you know, Ventrell was one of our leaders, one of our great leaders. So I get to just get an opportunity to kind of lead the team now and kind of see what Ventrell did, and kind of learn from what Ventrell did and kind of do some of those things in a game and take that on with me.”
Miller is one of several Florida players — alongside quarterback Anthony Richardson, wide receiver Justin Shorter and right guard O’Cyrus Torrence — who will bypass the trip to Las Vegas, Nev. with a pro career on their mind. That’s paired without the public not knowing which of UF’s 16 uncommitted players in the transfer portal will or won’t participate.
While teammates understand each player’s decision, Dexter’s commitment to finishing his final season with the Gators went a long way with those he will suit up with on Saturday.
“I got too much respect for Big G for doing that,” cornerback Jaydon Hill said. “He didn’t have to, you know, but it just shows how much he cares for us as a team and him as a player so it’s just good to see that.”
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