Dominique Easley decided to begin his preparation for the NFL Draft a bit sooner than originally expected last week when he signed with agent Tom Santanello and withdrew from the University of Florida.
Easley, who underwent surgery on Oct. 24 for a torn right ACL and meniscus by Dr. James Andrews, is uncertain where he’s projected to go in the 2014 NFL Draft but is “confident” that he’ll continue to play at a high level.
“I figured like it was just my time to go,” Easley told FOXSports.com in his first comments since turning pro. “I love what I do. I’m going to go hard at everything that I do. I don’t ever go out there thinking that I can’t get better. I’m always going to learn and I’m just a hard worker. I’m competitive.”
While the 6-foot-2, 280-pound defensive tackle could have been eligible for a medical redshirt, head coach Will Muschamp knew at the time of the injury that Easley would opt to leave Gainesville.
"He’ll have plenty of interest," Muschamp said in September. "He’ll be a productive guy on the next level. He’s a really good football player. He’s extremely intelligent. He gets the game. His tape speaks for itself and how he plays the game and approaches the game. He’ll be fine. There will be a lot of organizations that want him in their organization."
Easley’s explosiveness and first step make him one of the premier players at the defensive tackle position. He’s versatile enough to play multiple positions on the defensive line, too.
Easley’s surgery was three weeks ago. Still, he has made significant improvement. He’s walking around and doing simple exercises to get his knee functioning. He plans to train with Tony Villani in Boca Raton, Fla. beginning Dec. 1. His former teammate and Ravens safety Matt Elam referred him to Villani and feels like he can get where he needs to be.
Easley, who is from Staten Island, N.Y., suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in the last game of the 2011 season. He returned the following year, playing in 11 games and leading the team in sacks.
Knowledge from that experience prepared him this time around and has helped him understand his limits.
“It just makes me want it even more, you know?” Easley said. “It ain’t nothing new to me it’s just another thing to go through. It’s just a cycle.”
Easley considered entering the NFL Draft last season, but admits that goals of being an All-American and national champion made him want to stay in Gainesville.
The 2014 NFL Draft could be rich with talent at the defensive tackle position as players like Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, Arizona State’s Will Sutton, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix and Florida State’s Tim Jernigan are all eligible. None of that mattered to Easley.
“My mind was already made up,” Easley said. “It’s time to go.”