As former Gators defensive back Marco Wilson has been preparing for the NFL draft, teams have asked him about his lowlight — what was, for many, the defining moment of his Florida career.
The time he threw a shoe against LSU.
“I don’t run away from it,” Wilson said after Wednesday’s pro day. “It’s part of my life, and things happen.”
Leave the jokes and memes aside for a moment. Here is what happened on the field, as explained by Wilson in his first comments to UF reporters since that foggy December night in Gainesville.
The game “had a lot of energy,” with the score tied at 34 and the fourth quarter nearing its end. Wilson was involved on a third-down tackle that left LSU 6 yards short of the marker.
“Made a good play,” Wilson said.
During that good play, LSU’s Kole Taylor lost his size-14 Nike. It ended up in Wilson’s hand.
“I was excited,” Wilson said, “and just made an unfortunate mistake.”
Wilson’s unfortunate mistake: Chucking the shoe downfield. The ensuing 15-yard penalty kept LSU’s drive alive and led to the winning field goal. It was the start of UF’s season-ending, three-game losing streak and the beginning of an avalanche of backlash.
“I just learned how a silly mistake could affect me,” Wilson said. “I was getting just disgusting messages in my Instagram, stuff like that. Just seeing how quick people can turn on you and how negative they can really be in a tough situation, and how people could really not understand how things may play out in life. But it’s understandable. I learned that lesson.”
There were other lessons Wilson learned, too.
He learned that his teammates had his back, even after he literally threw the game away against a heated rival. He learned the importance of mental health to an athlete’s physical health.
He learned how to move on.
Wilson changed his social media settings so he wouldn’t see the vicious comments and pivoted more toward videos on YouTube and Twitch. He chose to ignore what others were thinking or saying.
“Those people don’t know me personally, so I don’t blame (you) if you’re mad,” Wilson said. “You don’t know me, that’s your problem.”
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As NFL personnel try to get to know the potential Day 2 pick, Wilson and his former coaches and teammates say any questions about his character are overblown.
Wilson said his personal foul against LSU was the only penalty like that he has ever received. Coach Dan Mullen said he never had to discipline the three-year starter. Tedarrell Slaton, Wilson’s former teammate at UF and Plantation American Heritage, said Wilson doesn’t do much besides working out and playing video games.
“He’s just a natural born athlete,” Slaton said.
That was obvious Wednesday when Wilson put the late-season struggles behind him and posted eye-popping numbers.
His vertical jump (43 ½ inches) would have been the second-best at last year’s combine. His bench-press figure (26 reps at 225 pounds) would have been the highest total by a defensive back at the combine since 2015. His 40-yard dash time (under 4.4 seconds) was blazing.
Wilson thought he could have been even faster, but he tripped on his first attempt. So he did what you’d expect him to do after the trying past three months.
He moved on.
Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney shine
UF’s two first-round talents posted impressive numbers Wednesday. Kyle Pitts’ wingspan of 83 3/8 inches is the largest by a tight end prospect since at least 1999, according to the draft site mockdraftable.com. He followed that with a 40-yard dash that was somewhere in the 4.4s.
Receiver Kadarius Toney was even faster, blazing to an unofficial 4.39-second 40. His broad jump (11 feet, 4 inches) would have tied for the fourth longest at last year’s combine.
Urban Meyer returns
First-year Jaguars coach Urban Meyer returned to Gainesville for pro day. It was a reunion for Meyer and Mullen, who won a pair of national titles together at Florida (with Meyer as head coach and Mullen as offensive coordinator).
Meyer won’t be picking any Gators with the No. 1 overall pick — that will almost certainly go to Clemson phenom Trevor Lawrence. But Jacksonville has three other selections in the top 45, including the 25th overall choice. Toney could be an enticing option for Meyer and the Jaguars.
At least three other NFL head coaches were in attendance, as were former UF offensive coordinators Doug Nussmeier (now the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach) and Brian Johnson (Eagles quarterbacks coach).
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