As the 2020 NFL Draft carried on to day three, the Gators were expected to send at least few more prospects to the NFL following the selections of cornerback C.J. Henderson (Jacksonville Jaguars, round one), wide receiver Van Jefferson (Los Angeles Rams, round two), defensive end Jabari Zuniga (New York Jets, round three), and outside linebacker Jonathan Greenard (Houston Texans, round three).
The next selection wouldn't come as too much of a surprise as one of their top-rated prospects entering this year's draft landed with the New York Jets in round four, running back Lamical Perine.
Not only will Perine be able to live out his dream of playing in the NFL, but he will also be with former teammates in Zuniga and safety Marcus Maye, and that's something he said on Saturday that is "amazing."
"So, I know a few Gators [that are] on the New York Jets," Perine said on a zoom conference call with the local Jets media on Saturday, adding he has a few high school friends to boot. "[Jets linebacker] C.J. Mosley, he's from my hometown, [Jets safety] Marcus Maye, Jabari Zuniga - just all-around good character guys. So I mean I'm [going to] feel at home when I get up there. So I'll be alright."
In total, the Jets have six former Gators on their roster, including their newest draftees, Perine, Zuniga, Maye, cornerback Quincy Wilson - who was traded to the team during the draft proceedings -, cornerback Brian Poole, and offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison.
Getting a chance at a reunion of sorts will allow Perine to feel more comfortable as he adapts to the rigors that the NFL demands. Something that will also boost his skill level and mindset will be playing behind one of the most respected running backs in the NFL in Le'Veon Bell. A chance to learn from one of the best to play the position will be welcomed by a willing learner in Perine.
"He's a great running back," Perine said of Bell. "I feel like he's one of the top three running backs in this league...able to pass protect, able to pass catch, run the ball very hard. He's just a great all-around guy, [a] guy I looked up to when he was in Pittsburgh. He's [an] all-around great running back. So, I'm looking forward to just learning from him and just getting some of his game."
In a way, Perine is similar to Bell. Both extremely patient runners, and both have the ability to catch the football out of the backfield. During his senior season at Florida, Perine finally got an opportunity to showcase his pass-catching talents, something he says benefitted him during the pre-draft process and perhaps partially why the Jets felt the need to select him 120th overall.
Perine, 5-foot-11, 216 pounds, accounted for 40 receptions for 262 yards and five touchdowns and was good for third on the team in receptions last season.
"I know teams just don't want no big bruiser," said Perine. "They want guys who [are] able to just catch out the backfield, and just being an asset on third down. Just being a weapon, and being able to contribute."
Perine feels he's one of those guys. Someone who is a 'big bruiser', but also can catch the football out of the backfield, even lining up out wide at times as he did for the Gators, a versatile player. That's what he's expecting to bring to the Jets and hopes to continue growing in the NFL.
"I'm just an all-around asset on the field, just a weapon."