University of Florida

Jaguars keep Gators’ Dante Fowler in Florida

Dante Fowler Jr. of the Florida Gators holds up a jersey after being chosen #3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.
Dante Fowler Jr. of the Florida Gators holds up a jersey after being chosen #3 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 30, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Getty Images

Dante Fowler got his wish.

Florida’s defensive end/outside linebacker is staying in state, going to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the third overall pick in Thursday’s 2015 NFL Draft in Chicago.

“Somebody got to pinch me,” Fowler told ESPN’s Suzy Kolber.

“I’m dreaming right now. Duval [County], you got a Gator, let’s do it.

Fowler, who said earlier this month he’d be “stunned” if the Jaguars passed on him, wore an audacious white tuxedo and $7,000 gold shoes and became the highest Florida draftee ever, tying defensive tackle Gerard Warren in 2001.

“I know they need a Leo, a right end,” said Fowler, who grew up in St. Petersburg.

“It was a need and I told them I was the guy, and let’s do it. They went and got me.”

The 6-3, 265-pounder is a versatile, explosive pass rusher and a perfect fit and need for Jaguars coach Gus Bradley’s aggressive scheme.

“He is a beast,” analyst Jon Gruden said during ESPN’s draft telecast. “He’s a long-armed freak show.

“He’ll deliver some of the most memorable hits Jacksonville fans can remember.”

Fowler registered just 14.5 sacks in his collegiate career, but he accounted for 34 tackles for loss and flashed his electric, complete skill-set for three seasons at Florida.

His dream of becoming the first player to hug NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also came true, as the top two picks — quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota — did not attend the draft.

Later, Fowler’s five-star friend also fulfilled a lifelong fantasy.

Gators junior left tackle D.J. Humphries, who competed against Fowler daily in practice for three years, went No.24 overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

Humphries, the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in 2012, struggled to maintain weight at Florida and started just 19 games during three injury-marred seasons. He surprised some with his decision to leave school early, but ultimately, the choice paid off thanks to his raw talent and elite athleticism.

"A great fit," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on the telecast.

“He’s has the best feet of any offensive tackle in the draft. He’s an immediate starter."

Humphries is UF’s first offensive player drafted in Round 1 since the Dolphins selected center Mike Pouncey 15th overall in 2011.

With Thursday’s pair of the selections, UF produced multiple first round picks for the fourth time since 2007.

No Florida players are projected to be drafted during the second and third rounds Friday, but a number of former Gators expect to hear their names called during rounds 4-7 on Saturday, including tailback Matt Jones, offensive lineman Max Garcia, offensive guard Trenton Brown and linebacker Neiron Ball.

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