Former Gator Dominique Easley quells nerves, doubts with pro day showing

Defensive lineman Dominique Easley was limited to three games for the Gators last season because of a knee injury.

Kim Klement/Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If Dominique Easley was nervous, he didn’t show it. If there were any lingering doubts in the back of his mind about the soundness of his surgically repaired right knee, they never bubbled to the surface.

Easley stepped onto the field Thursday morning at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and went to work. The only clue of Easley’s recent past was the bulky brace on his right knee.

"I felt really good out there," he told a handful of reporters afterward. "[I wanted to show] that I can move, that I’ve still got the quickness, that I’ve still got the get-up and the tenacity."

During about a 45-minute on-field workout for more than a dozen NFL scouts — former UF teammates Ronald Powell and Darrin Kitchens also participated — Easley flashed some of the burst he showed in the first three games last season before he got hurt.

Easley suffered a torn ACL seven months ago in his right knee — he tore the ACL in his left knee in November 2012 — and like he did following his first knee injury, Easley committed himself to a grueling rehab schedule.

Easley was playing at the highest level of his Gators career when he was hurt during a non-contact drill at practice three days after Florida’s win over Tennessee in September.

He said Thursday that his knee is about 80 to 85 percent healed, and that he is determined to reward whichever team picks him in the draft. Easley was projected as a first-rounder prior to his injury and the latest projections have him going likely in the middle rounds.

"I don’t even pay attention to that," Easley said of the countless mock drafts. "Everybody knows how I play. Everybody has seen my love for the game. Everybody has seen my passion. That stuff don’t matter to me.

"I’m really worried about what I’m going to do when I get to the team I’m going to be [with]."

Fixing the problems

Seattle, Kansas City, Chicago, Jacksonville, New England, St. Louis and Denver were among the teams that attended Easley’s workout Thursday. He spent most of the time working on drills that tested his agility and quickness.

Gators coach Will Muschamp and several of Easley’s former UF coaches and teammates watched or assisted in the workout.

Muschamp left confident that some team is going to get a high-quality defensive lineman in the 6-foot-2, 288-pound Easley on draft day.

"I was shocked at how quick and the lateral change of direction, all the stuff he was able to do," Muschamp said. "It doesn’t shock me from the standpoint of his work ethic and what he’s going to do to get himself ready. It was good for [scouts] to see that. To see him work out today, to see that fire and edge, it was fun to be around."

Since he was hurt, Easley said he has spent a portion of nearly every day — sometimes three times a day — doing something to rehab his knee. His inspiration has the same name: Dominique Easley II.

Easley’s young son was born during his junior year at UF and joined him on the field in November during Senior Day.

"It was real frustrating because I want to give my son the best," Easley said of last season’s injury. "I knew what I had to work for last year and I put my work in. Things happen. I believe God puts you in places for a reason. He put me in this place for a specific reason.

"I don’t expect sympathy from people. Life is not about sympathy. You’ve got to get through what you’ve got to get through. There ain’t no time to be crying about something. You’ve got mouths to feed. That’s the way I look at it. I’ve got a mouth to feed. If I cry, he’s gonna cry from not having food. I can’t let that happen."

Easley’s approach to life off the field is much like the way he tackles challenges on the field: head on and with passion.

Muschamp said one of the questions he gets from NFL teams most often about Easley is his passion for the game. Easley raised eyebrows at the NFL Combine when he told reporters he rarely watches football on TV.

He prefers to play it.

"You want him in your locker room. He is a really good player but I think is his competitive edge is a huge talent that he has, probably his No. 1 talent," Muschamp said Thursday. "I think he’s got a great ceiling. He’s a guy that hasn’t played his best football yet. I think that’s all in front of him. He loves competing and he loves playing."

With the May 8 draft three weeks from today, Easley said he plans to relax with his son and fiancée on draft day, order some good pizza and see what happens.

He took another step toward his dream of playing in the NFL during Thursday’s much-anticipated workout.

"I didn’t really think I was going to be able to do this," Easley said. "They said I looked good. I like to work past expectations. I don’t like being down. Nothing comes to a stop. Everything just keeps getting worked on."