“I don’t believe I left my mark here the way I wanted to leave it.”
Florida Gator defensive tackle Dominique Easley
Dominique Easley, a high school Army All American who came to Florida in the vaunted top ranked 2010 recruiting class along with fellow five star defensive stalwarts Ronald Powell, Shariff Floyd, and Matt Elam. is a study in character. By that I mean he is a real character. Since the day he set foot on the Gainesville campus, Easley has been a card. A cut up. A real engaging personality. From his dancing on the field to his cutting up with his teammates, Easley is certainly a well known personality with a zest for life. His teammates love playing with him.
“Being on the field with him is really funny,” defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr. said. “I remember in high school I saw him dancing and stuff and I was like ‘ooh’. I have a nice dance with him. He’s a fun guy to be around, especially on the football field.”
To the staff’s credit, they haven’t tried to stymie Easley’s personality. They’ve allowed him to be himself and it’s helped to create team chemistry.
“(the staff gives you) a lot of freedom. They believe in family and family is being truthful to yourself and being who you are at all times. I mean, I’m going to be me.”
“Me” is a lot of fun for players, fans, and media members alike as he’s long been an interview favorite for Gator beat writers as well as national media always looking for a good story.
His personality aside, however, it’s his character on the field that has Gator fans eager to see what mark he can leave in his final season in Gainesville. As a consensus five star high school all american, he’s always had the talent and the promise. He showed that getting on the field as a true freshman in Urban Meyer’s final season as head coach. He has shown his versatility being an inside/outside guy wherever the coaches have needed him to play. With Shariff Floyd gone to the NFL and the promise of true sophomore sensations Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard, Easley will man the middle of the defensive line for the Gators this season.
His seriousness on the field, his work ethic, and his fiery high energy leadership has really rubbed off on the rest of his defensive teammates.
“Dominique, just his play in general gets us fired up,” said senior corner back Jaylen Watkins. “Just like Matt (Elam), they go out and they go hard every play. When you got a guy like that, ten other guys see that, in general, they just want to go. They don’t want to leave him out there by himself.
Watkins added, “He’s definitely our energy guy. A lot of people aren’t energy guys as leaders but he’s definitely one. It’s good to have one of those guys.”
High praise for a guy who was more known for his gregarious personality early in his career. Despite his high motor and his potential for greatness he’s been victimized by nagging injuries that have kept him off the field numerous times throughout his career. It’s those nagging injuries that have kept him from realizing his full potential on the field at Florida. He was projected as high as a possible second round draft pick if he had left after his junior season last year. The knock? His penchant for missing time due to those nagging injuries.
So he came back to Florida for his senior season. Despite having a small child to care for, he came back. Despite the prospect of a career threatening injury he came back. Why? The reason is likely not what you might think.
Asked directly by a reporter, “Why did you come back?” he responded
“She wanted me to get my diploma,” Easley said.
To a guy who eats, drinks, lives, and breathes football, sometimes it isn’t about football. He gets it. One day football will be gone. It may be today, it may be twenty years from now, but regardless one day football will be gone. A degree is forever. He gets it.
To some measure, however, it is about football too.
He went on to answer the reporter’s question saying,
“And for the simple fact that I don’t believe I left my mark here the way I wanted to leave it.”
“How do you want to leave your mark?” the reporter asked.
“Be one of the best. Be called a Gator great.”
Perhaps even more important is his desire to lead his team to greatness.
“Me I always won a championship wherever I went so I believe before I leave here I have to win a championship.”
Last season was a teaser as the Gators went on a strong run to an SEC east division championship before losing a heartbreaker to Georgia in Jacksonville. After losing a ton of talent to graduation and players leaving early, the prospect of a championship looked dim. However, with the infusion of new talent in key spots, the maturation of younger players, and maturity and depth along the lines, at quarterback, and in the defensive secondary, the Gators could very well surprise this season and make another run at an eastern division championship and possible SEC title.
And, perhaps, Dominique Easley can leave the mark he wants to leave both as a Gator great and as a Gator champion.
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