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Thursday, July 07, 2022

All Ryan Stamper did his senior year was lead the fourth-best defense in the nation in tackles with 78.

He was a team captain for the Gators the last two seasons, when he started 25 of the 28 games.

In the 2009 BCS Championship Game, he tied Joe Haden for a team-high 10 tackles to help UF win 24-14.

This season, when Brandon Spikes couldn’t play, it was Stamper who stepped up in the star linebacker’s place.

He racked up 31 tackles and added an interception in the two games Spikes didn’t play — Vanderbilt and Mississippi State — and against Tennessee when Spikes left early.

Despite all he has done, Stamper likely won’t get drafted.

Not only will he not get drafted, but he has barely drawn much attention.

“My agent and coaches and other people who have talked to (NFL general managers) are telling me I can go anywhere from the fifth round to undrafted,” Stamper said.

A 6-2, 235-pound linebacker who hasn’t registered a good 40-yard dash time is rarely going to draw much praise from analysts and scouts.

But Stamper managed to make plays on a unit that was filled with NFL talent.

Along with Haden and Spikes, defensive ends Jermaine Cunningham and Carlos Dunlap and safety Major Wright all had the chance to participate at the NFL Combine in front of coaches and front-office decision makers.

All five players will likely be taken in the first three rounds of the draft, and in multiple games, Stamper outperformed all of them.

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Because many scouts are looking for a certain prototype, NFL teams could miss out on a great player who at the very least would be useful on special teams.

With quarterback Tim Tebow unveiling his new throwing motion and all the other studs working out at UF’s Pro Day on Wednesday, there will be plenty of coaches and scouts in attendance. This could be Stamper’s last chance — and one of his few overall — to impress them.

An ankle injury kept him from playing at the East-West Shrine All-Star Game, where he could have displayed his talent on the field.

The injury will limit him in some of the drills, but just talking to him for a couple minutes shows Stamper has great knowledge of the game and is an even better person.

Those factors, combined with his game film, should be enough to at least get him drafted.

“It gets disappointing because just like in high school and just like in college, I have to prove people wrong and show that 40 speed and testing ability isn’t really the most important thing when it comes to playing football,” Stamper said. “I feel like I’m fast enough, I’m strong enough to make plays and I think that’s what’s important because you can’t teach football. You either got it or you don’t.”

Stamper showed he had it in 2009, when he proved he could be one of the best players on a star-studded defense, and at least one NFL team should be able to see that.

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