Coming out of college, they were some of the most talked about NFL prospects in the country, and for good reason. Under former head coach Urban Meyer, the Florida Gators were one of the most exciting teams in the country, and all they ever seemed to do was win. Just a few short years later, it’s just another college football story that you can’t feel good about as a fan. How did the mighty fall? And how much worse can it get?
Aaron Hernandez was believed by most fans to be just a misunderstood talent with a marijuana problem. It’s amazing how uninformed we were just a few short months ago. Since then, the 23 year old tight end has been linked to cocaine, PCP, drug dealing, bar fights, domestic violence, gang violence, and (oh yeah) more than one murder. It’s amazing how badly the Patriots missed on this guy, and amazing how much of his off the field activity at Florida was unknown to the general public. Hernandez will probably never play again and will probably spend the rest of his life in jail.
Riley Cooper got himself in trouble for using the n-word on camera at a Kenny Chesney concert. The Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver was drafted in the 5th Round of the 2010 NFL Draft. This year, the Eagles couldn’t afford to release him after his racial misstep, because their other receivers keep getting hurt. It’s another case of poor judgement from one of Urban Meyer’s Gators. Philly is the same city that gave Mike Vick a second chance, so he may very well get past this, but you can’t help but wonder what they’re actually teaching these football players at the University of Florida.
Percy Harvin has been arguably the most successful Meyer Era Gator in the NFL. He’s been a fantasy football star who also sparked the Minnesota Vikings’ offense since his rookie season in 2009, but has become the Chevy Chase of professional football: for all his talent, he still managed to earn the label “difficult to work with.” He was a big reason Vikings head coach Brad Childress was fired in 2010, and he never seemed to be on the same page with his young QB Christian Ponder. Finally, last winter the Vikings decided enough was enough and traded Harvin, who was unlikely to re-sign with Minnesota, to the Seattle Seahawks for a longboat-load (because they’re Vikings, get it?) of draft picks. Both teams thought they were getting a good deal, as it gave Seattle’s young star QB Russell Wilson another target to throw to, but Harvin injured his hip this summer, and the Seahawks are not quite the Super Bowl favorites they might have been.
Jermaine Cunningham had a promising start to his career after being drafted by the Patriots in 2010. He was part of a young defense that made it to the Super Bowl in his second year. Last season, he was suspended by the league for PED use, and must have stopped using them because he was mostly ineffective after that. He was released by the Patriots with week, and his NFL future is uncertain.
Tim Tebow was the little quarterback that could. Despite his unconventional throwing motion, he was able to make plays with his legs and had one of the most successful college careers of all time, which included two BCS National Championships, three Heisman Trophy finalist selections, and was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. On top of all that, he was (and still is) a really good person. It was hard not to like the kid, but the media overhyped his ability because he was such a great human interest story. He probably never should have expected to be a QB in the NFL, but former Broncos head coach (and current Patriots offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels bought in to it as much as Tebow did. McDaniels, who selected Tebow in the 1st Round of the 2010 NFL Draft, saw him as a QB while everyone else with an interest in the player saw him as a running back or a tight end. Based on his build, Tebow could have become a player similar to longtime Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley. Now he’s 26, and unable to play any offensive position very well. He was released by his third NFL team, the New England Patriots, this week and has drawn very little interest from any professional football teams in the United States or Canada.
Meanwhile, Urban Meyer is now the head coach at Ohio State, where he posted an undefeated season last year and is an early favorite to reach the BCS National Championship Game yet again. Some guys have an uncanny ability to know when to get out of Dodge, and always seem to land on their feet.