A total of 45 former Gators were on 24 NFL teams by the end of the 2018 regular season.
A few of them stood out among their peers in 2018, including a couple rookies, and twin brothers that will team up in the Pro Bowl.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway made a notable impact in his first year in the league. He was thrust into the starting lineup after the Browns traded wide receiver Josh Gordon to the New England Patriots. Callaway finished the season with 43 receptions for 586 yards, averaging 13.6 yards per reception. The rookie also caught five touchdown passes, which led all Browns receivers.
Los Angeles Chargers center Mike Pouncey anchored the offensive line, starting every game of the 2018 season. His twin brother, Maurkice Pouncey, also started 16 games for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both of the Pouncey twins earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, but only the Chargers made the playoffs. Mike and Los Angeles finished the season 12-4, clinching the fifth seed in the AFC.
Tight end Trey Burton signed a four-year, $32 million contract with the Chicago Bears just weeks after throwing a touchdown for the Philadelphia Eagles in last year’s Super Bowl. Burton was overshadowed by Zach Ertz in Philly, but he was the starting tight end this year for the Bears. The former Gator played in every game of the season, racking up 54 receptions for 569 yards and six touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball, Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis led the team in tackles (100), recorded six sacks and forced a fumble. The Lions and Davis missed the playoffs in Matt Patricia’s first year as head coach, finishing at the bottom of the NFC North with a 6-10 record.
Defensive end Carlos Dunlap and the Cincinnati Bengals also finished the season 6-10. Dunlap was a bright spot in a defense that ranked dead last in yards allowed and third-worst in points per game. The veteran pass rusher ended the season with eight sacks, trailing only Geno Atkins for most on the team.
Former Gator punter Johnny Townsend had a busy rookie season with the Oakland Raiders. Townsend punted the ball 70 times for an average of 43.2 yards, which ranked at the bottom of the league.
With Jachai Polite, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Vosean Joseph declaring for the 2019 NFL Draft, it will be interesting to see how well these Gators play at the next level.
Follow Bryan Matamoros on Twitter @bmatamoros_ and contact him at [email protected].