GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Early on in his Florida career, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III seemed destined to be a first-round pick.
That became a reality Thursday when the former Gators star was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 11 overall pick of the 2016 NFL draft. Hargreaves hails from Tampa.
Like many athletes as talented as Hargreaves, walking across the stage to shake hands with NFL commission Roger Goodell and pose with a No. 1 jersey fulfilled a lifelong dream.
“As soon as I started playing football I thought about making it to the NFL,” Hargreaves said at Florida’s Pro Day. “That’s just how I thought, that’s what I wanted to do. Now that I’m here, I’m just excited and happy.”
Hargreaves, a former five-star recruit, became a full-time starter for UF in just his third collegiate game and collected several accolades in each of his three seasons with the Gators. He was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 and also earned consensus first team All-American honors, as well as his third-straight selection on the All-SEC first team.
“He just stands out now. He’s as talented as there is,” Florida coach Jim McElwain said of Hargreaves. “He’s not only a great player, but he’s a great student of the game. That will take him a long ways.”
Hargreaves declared for the NFL draft following his junior season, finishing his career with 121 tackles, 10 interceptions and 28 pass breakups. The 5-foot-10, 204-pounder wowed league personnel with his performances at the NFL combine and Florida’s Pro Day, cementing himself as a high draft pick.
With Hargreaves’ selection, the Gators have now had a first-round pick in nine of the last 10 drafts and four consecutive years. The last UF cornerback to go in the first round was Joe Haden in 2007, and NFL analysts expect Hargreaves to be just as successful as the two-time Pro Bowler.