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Back to School: Five Former UF Football Players are Enrolled in Spring Classes

Monday January 13, 2014Back to School: Five Former UF Football Players are Enrolled in Spring Classes

Former UF teammates Sharrif Floyd, No. 73, and Josh Evans, No. 9, are back in school after their rookie seasons in NFL.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Former Gators safety Josh Evans had planned to take classes last spring toward his criminology degree.

That plan was scrapped when he realized the demands on his time leading up to last April’s NFL draft. A month removed from his rookie season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Evans is back in school at UF two semesters shy of finishing his degree.

“It’s just like the old days,’’ Evans said.

Evans isn’t alone. He is one of five former UF football players enrolled this spring to work toward their degrees.

Three of those players – Sharrif Floyd, Jelani Jenkins and Matt Elam – were teammates with Evans and helped the Gators earn a Sugar Bowl berth in 2012.

The fifth member of the Gators’ back-to-school club is the elder statesman of the group, responsible for one of the most famous plays in recent Florida football history.

Twenty-nine-year-old Jarvis Moss spent five seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders following his Gators career. His blocked field goal in the final seconds of a 17-16 win against South Carolina in 2006 kept Florida’s title hopes alive on the way to the program’s second national championship.

Moss recently packed up and left his family behind in Dallas for a few months to take classes toward a sociology degree. Like Evans, Moss is two semesters shy of graduating. To help get back into the college spirit, Moss stepped onto Florida Field last week and re-enacted his blocked kick against the Gamecocks.

Then he went to see an academic counselor.

“It’s the principle: you start something and you finish it,’’ Moss said of why it was important to return to school. “And then on top of that, I want to move forward and start another career and to do that you need a degree. I want to coach and this is the first step.”

Since he took over the program in 2011 Florida head coach Will Muschamp has stressed to his players and former players that they are welcome to return to campus and use the football facilities as they please once they finish at UF. He has also stressed the importance of coming back to finish your degree to those players who leave early.

Tony Meacham, an assistant director in UF’s Office of Student Life, shares the same message when he meets with players about their class schedules.

“It’s constant communication with them about, ‘hey, the door is always open,’ ’’ Meacham said. “And the NFL does a good job in asking them about getting involved in enrolling. We tell them that from freshman year.”

Meacham said in normal years maybe one or two ex-football players return to school. Carlos Dunlap, Joe Cohen and Brandon Siler are among those in recent years to come back.

Having five enrolled at the same time is a testament that the message is working.

“The guys are just more and more in tune with trying to finish, knowing how many credits they have left,” Meacham said. “They are willing to take their time and move back here and try to finish.”

While Evans was a senior in 2012 and a sixth-round pick of Jacksonville in the 2013 NFL draft, Floyd, Elam and Jenkins all had another season of eligibility remaining. Floyd and Elam left early and were first-round draft picks. Jenkins opted to declare for the draft and went in the fourth round to Miami.

They each went their own way after the season but remained in contact during their rookie seasons, often discussing going back to school together.

“We had a pretty good class,’’ Evans said. “We do a pretty good job of staying in contact and pushing each other to get better.”

Evans has a clear vision of what he wants to do after his football career ends.

“I had two mentors that were both police officers and I have a brother-in-law who is a detective,’’ he said. “That caught my eye growing up and being surrounded by a group of guys like that. When I’m done playing football, [law enforcement] is something that I’m definitely going to be interested in.”

More than seven years have passed since Moss took a college course. In the back of his mind during his NFL career he always wondered if he would return to school.

Once he became a father – Moss has a 6-year-old son named Noah – those doubts slowly began to fade.

“It’s for me, but it’s for my son too,’’ he said. “I want to set a good example for him to follow.”

Evans also has reasons that stretch beyond the football field. He grew up in New Jersey and had ample opportunities to take the wrong path. He wants to show others back home what you can accomplish by making good life decisions.

“I like to push myself to the highest goal and I always had it in my mind that I didn’t get a chance to take classes when I was preparing for the combine and preparing myself for the next level,’’ he said. “I knew I wanted to come back and finish have a degree, to not only say I did it in football, but to say I did it in the classroom as well.

“That means a lot.”

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