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Monday, March 04, 2024
<p>All-America cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III catches a pass during a drill as part of Florida's Pro Day on Tuesday inside UF's indoor practice facility.</p>

All-America cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III catches a pass during a drill as part of Florida's Pro Day on Tuesday inside UF's indoor practice facility.

When Vernon Hargreaves III first picked up a football, this moment was already in his mind.

Cameras clicking, scouts from all 32 NFL teams lined up left and right, past and present UF players all there to see how the junior All-America cornerback stacked up against the measurements.

Some players might feel the pressure of Pro Day, the last big evaluation before the NFL Draft just more than five weeks away.

But for Hargreaves, this is what all his hard work has been building toward ever since he was in grade school.

The joy and excitement on his face told the story.

“As soon as I started playing football, I thought about making the NFL,” Hargreaves said, beaming ear to ear. “That’s just how I thought, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Ever since the Tampa native came to Florida, everyone knew what his future likely held.

Recruited as one of the best players and the sure-fire top cornerback out of high school, Hargreaves’ impact was felt immediately.

Playing behind veterans and then-highly ranked pro prospects Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson in his first year, it was evident early that the freshman had the most raw talent on the field as he led the team in interceptions.

By his sophomore year, he was no longer just the best defensive back on the team — he was the best in the country.

Becoming a potential first round and possibly even top-10 pick became a reality under the tutelage of former head coach Will Muschamp and former defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson — both of whom the cornerback still keeps in touch with, as recently as hours before pro day began.

Robinson in particular helped Hargreaves gain the belief that there was no limit to his potential.

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“He just gave me the confidence that you can do it,” Hargreaves said. “You can do whatever you want. You can go in the first round. You can be the first pick.

“From there I just took off, put my head down and I’ve been grinding since I got here.”

His junior season was almost a formality given what he had already accomplished, and another solid year only solidified his stock.

He impressed enough at the combine in Indianapolis that he felt no need to try to top his numbers, such as his 4.50 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical jump. Instead, he used his Pro Day to simply go through all the workouts for the scouts, giving them one last glimpse of what they will get on the field with his selection.

After finishing, as he talked a mile a minute about his custom-made shoes, why he prefers to give Commissioner Roger Goodell a handshake over a hug and why his mother might make him cry on draft night, it was evident that his journey to the pros was nearly complete.

And it was the final moment of that journey that stood out most to the cornerback.

“The workout,” Hargreaves said, identifying his favorite part of this whole process. “Talking with the boys, getting the work in with the boys, one last time, finally. Just finishing the workout and relaxing.”

 

Contact Graham Hack atghack@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @graham_hack24

All-America cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III catches a pass during a drill as part of Florida's Pro Day on Tuesday inside UF's indoor practice facility.

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