GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida safety Marcus Maye empathized with Alabama’s Eddie Jackson on Monday after seeing the Crimson Tide’s star safety sustain a season-ending fractured leg over the weekend.
After a terrific junior season in which he tied for the SEC lead with six interceptions last fall, including two returned for touchdowns, Jackson opted to return to Alabama for his senior year rather than enter the NFL Draft.
Maye made the same call, returning to Florida as a fifth-year senior, and he admits the thought of a potential injury factored into that decision-making process.
“Yeah, I mean, all that plays a part. You want to come back, but you don’t want to take the chance of getting hurt,” Maye said. “But, I mean, you go out on the field, you’re not thinking about getting hurt or anything like that. You’re just going out there playing ball like you always do. So you know, just a lot of things play a part in making the decision to come back.”
Maye is benefitting from that choice with another solid season for the Gators. He ranks third on the team with 35 total tackles, is tied for the team lead with 4 pass break-ups and also has a sack and an interception.
Jackson, meanwhile, was making the most of his final season as well, having already notched an interception return for touchdown and two punt returns for touchdown this season.
“I guess he was in the same situation. You know, he’s one of the top safeties in the country. You know, to see him go down on Saturday is definitely saddening so I feel for him,” Maye said.
Maye and senior linebacker Jarrad Davis were the two Gators who faced a tough career decision after last season.
Davis is benefitting from his return as well with a team-high 48 total tackles, 4 pass break-ups, 3.5 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries and 2 sacks. But he also received a scare in Florida’s game against Missouri two weekends ago, sustaining a badly sprained ankle that looked like it could have been even worse in the moment.
His status for Florida’s game this Saturday with Georgia in Jacksonville, Fla., is still undetermined, but at least his injury wasn’t season-ending.
Florida coach Jim McElwain thinks both Maye and Davis have raised their draft stock by choosing to return.
“(They) have raised their stock and are playing at a high level, and yet, those are things you can’t worry about. But based on their play they’re going to get rewarded,” McElwain said. “We’ve got some guys that are really playing at a high level that are going to go as high draft choices, and I’m so proud of them not holding back but giving everything they have to help the Gators be successful. And that speaks volumes for them.”
And, he added, football isn’t the only consideration for some of these guys.
“I think you had two guys there that were concerned, and their mothers were concerned, by getting their degrees,” McElwain said. “I think they actually had their priorities right from that standpoint. And they’ll be rewarded for it. Based on their play and the way they’re playing, you know what, it’ll help them as they move up the boards.”