Now, two local products and former Florida Gators face the arduous task of filling the shoes of future Hall of Famers.
With the 18th pick in the second round of the NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears drafted Palm Beach Central alum Jon Bostic. A day after the Baltimore Ravens drafted Matt Elam (Palm Beach Dwyer) to replace safety Ed Reed, the Bears chose Bostic in hopes that he can help take over the role of inside linebacker vacated when the team failed to come to terms with perennial All-Pro Brian Urlacher.
A first-round pick in 2000, Urlacher made an immediate impact, winning the Rookie of the Year award and going onto make eight Pro Bowls in 13 seasons for Chicago. He also won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005.
Joining Elam (No. 32) and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (No. 23 to Minnesota), Florida had three players selected in the first 50 picks of the 2013 draft after having just two selected last year. The selection of Bostic at No. 50 overall marked the highest a former middle linebacker from Florida had been chosen since 1999, when Mike Peterson went to the Indianapolis Colts at No. 36.
“I’m very proud of Jon, he really worked hard for this moment,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said in a school release. “Last offseason, we sat down with Jon and told him the things he needed to work on and he really attacked those things. His hard work has paid off now and we wish him the best.”
There were concerns about Bostic’s ability in pass coverage, but he quelled those with his play in his senior season (68 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions) as well as a time of 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
General manager Phil Emery said the Bears were attracted to Bostic because of his “intelligence, speed and positional flexibility.” Bostic played multiple positions for the Gators in both three- and four-man defensive fronts, leading Emery to say the rookie could fill in immediately at any of Chicago’s three linebacker spots.
The pick was announced Friday by former Gators running back Neal Anderson (1982-85), who was a first-round pick of the Bears in 1986 and played eight seasons in Chicago.
With Bostic, the Bears have now drafted 19 former Gators, which is more than any other NFL team except the Pittsburgh Steelers (24.) Another former Florida player, safety Major Wright, is also on the roster.
Also getting drafted Friday was Florida tight end Jordan Reed, who was selected No. 85 overall by the Washington Redskins.
He will be paired with quarterback Robert Griffin III in a move that came as somewhat as a surprise after a slow 40-yard dash time at the Combine coupled with negative reports that surfaced before the draft indicated he would slide into the later rounds.
After coming to the Gators as a quarterback, Reed played less than two seasons at tight end, racking up 79 receptions for 945 yards and six touchdowns.