University of Florida

This Gators lineman has the speed, the intensity and the work ethic to be a super star

Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga (92) and defensive lineman Jachai Polite (99) line up for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Charleston Southern Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Gainesville.
Florida defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga (92) and defensive lineman Jachai Polite (99) line up for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Charleston Southern Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, in Gainesville. AP

Jachai Polite is a guy who’s often brought up to many of his teammates, and they all praise his infectious energy and ability to outwork anyone on the field.

The defensive lineman has the speed, the intensity and the work ethic that any coach dreams of having in a player.

And it allowed him to emerge as one of the most impressive players on Florida’s roster throughout fall camp.

After a 2017 campaign in which he totaled 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, one forced fumble and six quarterback hurries, Polite got in the weight room.

He worked closely with new strength-and-conditioning coach Nick Savage to lose weight and get his body fat down to around 11 percent.

Polite told reporters after Tuesday’s practice that in order to get to the size he is now, he had to change many aspects of his diet and lifestyle.

His love for sweets was among the toughest to give up.

“Like candy. I’m kind of too old for candy,” Polite said. “So, I had to slow down on that, focus on my future.”

A lot of his teammates praise his closing speed as one of the best they’ve ever encountered, something that Polite has payed specific attention to in improving his game.

“I developed it, not going to lie. I used to slack a little bit, but over the years I’ve learned that hustling creates opportunities,” Polite said. “A lot of people don’t want to be the one to hustle, so I’m going to do it. Make more plays.”

Quarterback Feleipe Franks described the 6-2, 242-pound lineman as an energy ball, someone who has just scratched the surface as far as potential.

Defensive tackle TJ Slaton not only declared that Polite has the best closeout of anyone of the team, but that he’ll be a first-round draft pick when that time comes.

And defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson put it simply when asked his thoughts about Polite.

“One of the best D-ends right now in the SEC. As the seasongoes on, one of the best D-ends in the country.” Gardner-Johnson said. “He cando everything.”

Though Polite thrives at the defensive end position, he grew up admiring the pass rush and even saw himself as one of those guys that charges across the line of scrimmage at the quarterback.

“It’s a fun position, it’s very fun. Somebody has to block you, like, that’s hard,” Polite said. “That’s very hard, to stop somebody trying to get around you.”

Polite understands that he’s known for the energy that hebrings, and it’s something that he hopes will continue to rub off on those around him.

“Yeah I take a lot of pride in it, it gets my teammates going too. They all go faster now, they don’t want me to make the play. Be the first one there,so it’s all good at the end,” he said. “It’s better collectively.”

As someone who takes pride in his infectiousness on the field and off, Polite uses those closest to him as fuel.

Polite has earned the starting spot at the buck position in Todd Grantham’s defensive scheme for the second straight week, so his energy,hard work and overall way of thinking seems to be paying off.

“Just my family, who I do it for. That’s my why.”Polite said. “That’s why I go so hard.”

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