GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A year ago, Brian Poole used his NFL combine snub to fuel his impressive performance at Florida’s pro day.
The former Gators cornerback returned to Gainesville this week to watch the next crop of UF players hoping to one day accomplish what Poole did in 2016 — start in the Super Bowl.
Poole was snubbed again when he went undrafted last April, but the Atlanta Falcons gave him an opportunity as a free agent.
“I felt like I had something to prove, just going undrafted and knowing I could play,” Poole said. “I knew there were guys who got drafted that I felt like I was better than.”
Poole certainly proved his point. He not only made the 53-man roster, but played in all 19 games with 11 starts, including Super Bowl 51 against the New England Patriots.
Including the playoffs, Poole finished his rookie season with 74 tackles, 10 pass breakups, an interception, a sack and a huge hit on Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“Definitely crazy,” Poole said of his rookie season. “Making it to the Super Bowl, I wasn’t expecting all that. It really hit me after the NFC title game with all the confetti.
“I never really experienced that. It was a good feeling. It would’ve felt better to win, but the goal is to get back. So we’ll see.”
Poole was recruited to Florida by Atlanta coach Dan Quinn and is comfortable with his defensive scheme and coaching style. He called the Falcons a perfect fit.
“It’s been a blessing,” Poole said. “I understand the opportunity that I got. That’s why I try to take advantage of it every day, stay out of trouble and keep my nose clean. This was my goal. This is more important to me than anything.”
The 5-foot-9, 213-pound defensive back played in 49 games at UF with 22 starts, finishing his college career with 120 tackles, 23 pass breakups and 6 interceptions. Poole said playing in Florida’s secondary prepared him for the NFL.
“Just think about all the guys we had,” Poole said. “Me, Vernon (Hargreaves), Keanu (Neal), Marcus (Maye), Jalen (Tabor), Quincy (Wilson). That’s a lot of talent in one room. Every day I had to come in and bring my A-game. That really helped me out a lot.”
Despite his starting role with the Falcons and the success of his first year, Poole doesn’t feel vindicated yet about going undrafted.
“Nah,” he said, “I still got a little bit more to show the league.”