GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida cornerback Jalen “Teez” Tabor didn’t hide from the media or turn down interviews Tuesday. Instead, he welcomed them.
Tabor ran the 40-yard dash in the mid-4.7 range at Florida’s pro day, an alarming time that will likely hurt his stock for the 2017 NFL Draft.
But the talkative Tabor never turns down an opportunity in front of cameras, even after a bad day.
“It’s all good to me,” said Tabor, who was all smiles and jokes after his workout.
Tabor first raised eyebrows earlier this month at the NFL Scouting Combine when he ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds. He hoped to improve his time at pro day, as former Gators defensive Joe Haden did in 2010.
Instead, there’s now a permanent red flag regarding his speed. Tabor, however, isn’t concerned about the negative impact that will have.
“It is what it is. I ran as fast as I can run,” Tabor said. “I mean, it’s not going to be my loss if you pass on me. I’m going to be in this league for a long time.”
Though his 40 time shocked analysts and scouts, it came as no surprise to him. Tabor said he’s always been in that range and believes his three years of Florida game video matter more than his test results in March.
“Just press play,” Tabor said. “I feel like I’m at the top of the list (among cornerbacks). You watch the film, it’s really, it speaks for itself. … I’ve got more picks than a lot of the top guys. I’m pretty sure I’ve got more touchdowns, probably more touchdowns than they got picks.
“I’ve been a 4.6 guy. But it’s so shocking because you don’t see it on film. That’s the great thing about it. I don’t get beat over the top … When you turn on the film, that’s what I’m good at.”
When asked if tape should trump everything, Tabor fired back with a question of his own.
“If you were hiring somebody, would you make them do stuff that they wouldn’t do on the job and then evaluate them? Or would you evaluate them on what they do on the job?
“I’m not a track guy. If we were trying out for the Olympics, I wouldn’t be here. The thing is we’re going to the NFL. I’m catching picks and running back this way (toward the end zone), jamming people at the line. So I’m a good football player. When it comes 53 yards this way and 120 yards this way, I’m the best. Now, you line me up, I might not beat you in the race, but reading routes and all that stuff, it’s no question.”
A two-time first team All-SEC selection, Tabor was projected as a first-round pick when he turned pro after the 2016 season. Tabor realizes he might now go later in the draft but still has unwavering confidence that he’s a first-round talent.
“In my heart, I’m a first-round pick,” Tabor said. “But, you know, guys slide sometimes. Tom Brady went in the sixth round. Josh Norman fourth. Richard Sherman fifth. They first-round picks, though. They get paid like them.
“You see a lot of these top-flight guys who go out here and run 4.3, and they’ll be out of the league in four years, you know what I’m saying? I’m in for the long run. This is minor. I’m trying to play ball.”
Busy month ahead for Tabor
While Tabor’s stock fell, teammate and fellow cornerback Quincy Wilson seemingly cemented himself as a first-round pick. Like Tabor, speed isn’t the strength of Wilson’s game.
“Are we drafting, are we looking for an Olympic runner or a football player? I feel like if you turn on Jalen’s film, it says enough,” Wilson said of Tabor. “If they want to worry about 40 times and stuff like that, then that’s not the guy you want. But if you want production, then definitely Jalen’s the guy. He’s very instinctive, very smart. He knows what’s coming before it happens. He can anticipate and make a play.”
Tabor is scheduled to meet privately with several NFL teams next month. He has already discussed his poor 40 times with coaches.
“My whole April is booked up, so I’ll be on the road until draft day,” Tabor said. “A lot of the teams told me they don’t really care about the 40 numbers. They’re going to pick a couple of guys probably before me and they’re going to wish they picked me later on down the road.”
Tabor was suspended twice at Florida and got himself in trouble with a couple tweets, for which he later apologized. He addressed those incidents with NFL teams during the combine.
“I just was up front,” Tabor said. “I made a couple of mistakes when I was young. Everybody was 18, 19, 20 years old at one point in time in their life, and everybody’s done some things they wished they could have back, including myself. That’s all I expressed to them, that I was young, made immature decisions and I learned from it.”
The 2017 NFL Draft begins April 27 and concludes April 29. Tabor said he hasn’t been invited and plans to watch from home.
Despite Tabor’s off-the-field issues and disappointing testing results, Gators coach Jim McElwain vouched for him throughout the draft process during conversations with league personnel.
“In talking to these guys, it’s about what you put on film,” McElwain said. “Ultimately, all these drills do is either possibly confirm or put some things into it. Guys, he plays at fast, fast level. … He puts on film that the speed is not an issue. And I think that’s exactly what a lot of these guys have talked about.”
“He’s got great character. He’s never been a problem in any stretch of the imagination. He’s a guy we’re better when he’s on the field and that’s pretty obvious. He makes the guys around him better. … Unbelievable ball skills, great instincts, loves the game, really good teammate, good in the locker room.”