GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Jaye Howard finally played with the consistency his coaches wanted, and it got him drafted higher than many projected.
The Seattle Seahawks selected the former Florida defensive tackle in the fourth round (114th pick overall) on Saturday, making Howard the first Gators player taken in the NFL draft. It is the latest round in which the first UF player has been drafted since 1993, when defensive back Lawrence Hatch was selected in the sixth round by New England.
"Congrats to Jaye," UF coach Will Muschamp said on Twitter. "He worked very hard this year to put himself in this position."
It took a while for Howard to get to this point, mainly because his effort didn't match his potential. Howard arrived in Gainesville in 2007 out of Apopka (Fla.) High School as one of the state's top defensive ends. But he also had the attitude to match his lofty recruiting ranking, and he was hurt by his lack of consistent effort. A roster that included eventual NFL players Derrick Harvey, Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham resulted in Howard redshirting.
Howard played sparingly in 2008 and 2009, battling with defensive line coach Dan McCarney and defensive coordinator Charlie Strong as they tried to get him to understand the importance of going hard in every practice and every game. By the time McCarney and Strong left after the 2009 season, Howard had finally gotten the message. He made nine of his 29 tackles in the final four games of the 2010 season, including five solo stops in the Outback Bowl victory over Penn State.
He carried that over into 2011 and had the best season of his career. His 65 tackles nearly matched his career total in his first three seasons (66), and his 5.5 sacks were more than half of his career total (11).