Former UF defensive tackle Taven Bryan is sticking close to home. Well, his second home anyway.
With the 29th selection in Thursday’s NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars selected Bryan to join one of the league’s top defenses and the Wyoming product was happy to hear he was headed to the Jags.
“Jacksonville’s an interesting situation because I was honestly surprised. With all of the players they have, I’m surprised they picked me,” Bryan said.
He said it felt great to finally find out where he would end up after having to wait for 28 other selections to be made ahead of him.
“Oh it kills ya. It kills ya sitting in there. You’re just waiting like waiting and like, ‘Oh, those people won’t pick me,’ and so you’re like, ‘OK, maybe those people will,” Bryan said. “And you kind of work your way down.”
Bryan’s selection extended the Gators’ streak of first-round draft picks to six years and gives the Jags one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2018 draft class.
Few players available possess Bryan’s physical gifts.
On ESPN’s telecast of the draft’s first round, analyst Mel Kiper Jr. compared Bryan’s ability with that of Houston Texan J.J. Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Former Florida DT Taven Bryan was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Chris Hays / Orlando Sentinel)
Bryan left college early to enter the draft as a junior, but he wasn’t sweating the possibility that he wouldn’t get picked, although for a while the first round became kind of iffy.
“You can’t worry to much about it. You go where you go and it’s all depending on … what teams need,” he said. “It was awesome. I feel very blessed and I feel very happy to have gotten the call.
“I expect just to come in and try to do the right thing and be the best dude I can be.”
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit said Bryan looks like he should a perennial Pro Bowler but that he disappeared too often in games during his college career.
Bryan certainly was drafted for his potential more than his production during three seasons at UF.
Bryan managed just 67 tackles at UF, culminating with a solid redshirt junior season featuring 40 stops, including six for loss.
But Bryan was in a class of his own at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis.
The 6-foot-5, 291-pound Bryan ran the 40-yard dash in 4.98 seconds and benched-pressed 225 pounds 30 times. No DT performed better in the vertical jump (35 inches), broad jump (9 feet, 11 inches), three-cone drill (7.12 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle run (4.48 seconds).
Bryan was at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Thursday’s draft. The 22-year-old arrived wearing a gray and blue plaid sport coat, white dress shirt and baby blue tie, with Bose headphones wrapped around his neck.
When his named was called, the native of Casper, Wyo., let out a sigh of relief before heading onstage to shake the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
In Jacksonville, Bryan will join former teammate Dante Fowler Jr., although he didn’t get to know Fowler very well in the short time they spent together in Gainesville.
“It will be cool. I didn’t get to hang out with him that much,” Bryan said. “That would have been his last year and he was out pretty quick, but he’s a really good dude.”