GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The 2017 NFL Draft process has been surreal for Florida defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, and it hit home Monday night.
Less than 12 hours from his second workout for NFL coaches and scouts, Brantley found himself reflecting on his journey as a football player.
“I actually pinched myself last night,” Brantley said after Florida’s pro day. “I still can’t believe it. I put a baby picture on social media and I’m holding a football. It really shows you I’ve been working for this my whole life, man.”
?? pro day tomorrow been a long time coming pic.twitter.com/c8cmZ6zKXk
— Caleb Brantley (@RichYungg57) March 28, 2017
Brantley shared his story in an exclusive letter with SEC Country to announce his NFL Draft intentions. He had the opportunity to work in front of several NFL coaches Tuesday, including Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots.
“That’s the greatest,” Brantley said. “You see Bill Belichick running through, that’s like a dream come true — and pressure. But we’ve been doing this our whole lives. You just got to go out there and do what you do.
“I think it was a great pro day. You’re kind of nervous at the combine, with the pressure. But that pressure was relieved here. I’m here with my guys and my teammates. I’m grateful to come out here and do this.”
Brantley met with NFL coaches Monday night and has visits scheduled with the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. He’s projected as a first-round pick by analysts and in multiple mock drafts.
“Everyone thinks I’m a great player,” Brantley said. “They think I use my hands very well. They think I’m very explosive and I’m smart — like, I have high football IQ. It’s a lot of positives. I just have to work on my effort.
“Everyone thinks I don’t play hard every play, which I agree with. I could have definitely improved on that this year. … But everyone loves, me, man. I can’t wait to see where I end up.”
Despite his first-round potential, Brantley plans to watch the draft from home with his family and “have a little crab boil.” He enjoyed working out at Florida one last time Tuesday.
“It’s real emotional,” Brantley said. “You come back and all the young guys are excited to see you, saying that they wish they were in your shoes. It’s going to come for them. But it’s just real emotional, because I love those guys. I love being a Gator. I miss it already.”