Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr. is ready to demonstrate his athletic ability on the defensive line and as a linebacker if teams are willing to give him the opportunity.
As NFL offenses become more nuanced – as they become quicker, more dynamic and more spread out – acquiring versatile, athletic defensive players continues to be of premium concern for teams.
That's why Florida pass rusher Dante Fowler Jr., a 6-foot-3, 261-pound top prospect with noticeable explosiveness, believes that he is an ideal candidate to jump into any scheme or system.
"I really can play anywhere," Fowler said at his press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Coach [Will] Muschamp's defense was multiple. We played a 3-4 and a 4-3. It can help me a lot just because I play anywhere. I can play some linebacker to D-end to edge rusher. I can do a lot for team. I create a lot of problems for the offense and really just stressing out coordinators out.''
This past year, Fowler's junior season, he recorded a career high in tackles (60) and sacks (8.5) to go along with two forced fumbles along the defensive line. His highlight reel game came against LSU, making 11 tackles with a sack in Baton Rouge, La.
"My junior year we played a lot of 3-4," Fowler said. "So I was the BUCK [linebacker]. I stood up and just roamed up and things like that. I played all over the place.''
As a freshman, Fowler had the opportunity to work under then-defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who later went to two straight Super Bowls with the Seattle Seahawks and has now taken over as head coach for the Atlanta Falcons. His guidance was fundamental for shaping Fowler's college career.
"It was crazy," Fowler said. "Just being able to be with Dan Quinn for that one year, he taught so much. I had enough information for four years. He was just a great coach, a player's coach. He was just smart.
Check out these photos of Dante Fowler Jr., an energetic and relentless edge rusher of the University of Florida.
Fowler said Quinn "taught me to be a man."
"I was sad when he left," Fowler said of his former coach. "But I knew he was going to do great things. And he accomplished his goals and dreams just like I'm going to accomplish mine.''
Fowler said he appreciated Quinn's hands-on approach to coaching.
"He was the type of guy who would sit me down like I was his son and we would go over film," Fowler said.
"He showed me what I was doing wrong. And he'd show up a clip of how to do it the right way because I'm a visual-type learner."
During the last two years under Muschamp, Fowler was given the opportunity to be more flexible regarding where he roamed on the field. It makes sense that one of the players he admires is DeMarcus Ware, for his ability to adapt into multiple pass and running situations.
It's why he also has great respect for linebackers Aldon Smith and Von Miller, highly athletic players that have adapted into defending the new era of offense.
"If I want to think I'm a big guy, I like to go out there and mess with the receivers," Fowler said, continuing to pitch his versatility. "I can play in the flats and in the curls. I can play everywhere."
Now that the combine has finished and the focus is completely on the draft, Fowler just has to believe a team will value his skillset, one which appears to always be growing in need.
"Oh yeah, this is a dream come true. I've been wanting to do this ever since I was a little kid when I was four years old," Fowler said. "It was like a path in front of me."