Urban Frank Meyer III is one of the greatest college football coaches of all-time. Some would say that the three-time National Champion is one of the greatest coaches period, regardless of sport or level. The Toledo-born Meyer has applied his craft for over 30 years and got his coaching start at the high school level in his native Ohio. After 15 years as an assistant coach in the college ranks, Meyer received his first head coaching job at Bowling Green which is also located in Ohio. After two years there, Meyer then moved to Utah and following two years with the Utes; Meyer took his talents to north of South Beach and the University of Florida. He would coach some of the most memorable teams and iconic players in college football history during his six seasons in Gainesville. Following a brief retirement, the lure of coaching back in Ohio was too much to turn down and Meyer then became the head coach of Ohio State University.
Even though Meyer has experienced some of the highest of highs; some of his players have gone through the lowest of lows since leaving the Urban Meyer-nest. One place in particular this has happened is at the University of Florida. His Gators players had nearly unparalleled success while in Gainesville; but things haven’t gone quite as smoothly once they departed for the NFL. Not only have some former Gators struggled on the field, but their lives have been complete disasters off it. It’s time to look back at these busts as we present the top 15 worst Florida Gators Urban Meyer sent to the NFL.
15 Derrick Harvey
At UF Harvey had the reputation as a player who played his best on the biggest of stages. He proved that rep by winning the defensive MVP award in the Gators’ BCS title win vs. Ohio State with 3 sacks. When Harvey declared for the NFL draft, he ranked 3rd on the school’s all-time list for tackles for loss and he did that in just three seasons.
Unfortunately for Harvey, the motivation he found in college could not be summoned once he got to the NFL. He was the #8 overall pick in 2008 (the highest drafted player on this list) by the Jags but had just five more sacks in his entire NFL career than he had in that BCS title game. Perhaps if he was in a different situation than Jacksonville, then his career could have panned out better as the Jags haven’t proven they are competent at developing their own players. Harvey would become the first of nine (and counting) first round picks by the Jags that have failed to make a single Pro Bowl in their careers.
14 Ray McDonald
McDonald came to Gainesville as a legacy Gator as his dad, Ray Sr., was a letterman on the team in the 1980s. Urban Meyer apparently thought highly of McDonald as he hand-picked the defensive lineman to be one of the team’s captains when he was a senior. McDonald’s NFL career would start off simple enough even though he played for a bunch of bad 49ers teams. However, once the team started winning after the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, McDonald started to run afoul of the law. He has been arrested multiple times for domestic violence and multiple times for sexual assault. The 49ers would cut him in 2014 just hours after one of those sexual assault arrests and he would later be charged with rape by intoxication.
The Chicago Bears were somehow interested in McDonald’s services after his release and they quickly scooped him up. However, it would take McDonald just two months as the Bear to get into more trouble and after an arrest for domestic violence and child endangerment; Chicago would cut him and that could signal the end of McDonald’s NFL career.
13 Jermaine Cunningham
Before he was legally old enough to drink, Cunningham had won two national championships. He was a three-year starter under Meyer and completed his college career with 19.5 career sacks. In the 2010 NFL Draft, Cunningham would be the first of three former Gators picked by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Cunningham would also be the worst player of those three former Gators to play under the Hoodie. In four NFL seasons, Cunningham would actually be suspended for more games (10) than the number of sacks he recorded (3.5). His first suspension was for PEDs while in New England and his second suspension was a bizarre situation while he was with the Jets.
Cunningham was arrested for “revenge porn” for posting sexually revealing images of his ex-girlfriend without her consent. He would eventually get off easy on the sentencing as he was only forced to go to anger management and be under probation, effectively ending his NFL career.
12 Brandon Spikes
Spikes was one of the most accomplished players in college football history during his four years at Florida. How many other people can claim to be a two-time national champion and a two-time consensus All-American? Like many others on this list, Spikes went from Florida to the New England Patriots who he played with four four seasons. Spikes’ bust label isn’t applied to his work on the field; but rather his issues off it. He was suspended for a game while at Florida and then suspended for four games with the Patriots. The NFL suspension stemmed from him violating the league’s substance abuse policy. After leaving New England for Buffalo for one season; Spikes then re-signed with the Patriots for the 2015 season. However, he was then involved in a bizarre situation in which he abandoned his Mercedes on the interstate after a hit-and-run. He would eventually receive four citations including leaving the scene of an accident causing injury and the Patriots promptly cut him. After spending all of 2015 out of football, Spikes then returned to Buffalo as a backup.
11 Louis Murphy
If this list was made a year ago, Murphy would have been nowhere to be found. He was an Eagle Scout as a kid, also ran track at Florida, and graduated college at the age of 20. But all it takes is a couple of bad months to end up here. After a seven year NFL career with four different teams, Murphy started making news for all of the wrong reasons. First in July 2016, Murphy got drunk, fell asleep, and was locked inside a museum where he was in attendance for a wedding. He then proceeded to break the glass on one of the doors to unlock it and then called 911. He wasn’t charged with a crime (other than embarrassment) and agreed to pay for the broken glass.
The next thing was a bit more serious as Murphy was arrested for having a loaded gun at a Tampa airport. It was loaded with 11 rounds of ammunition and he was caught with it while trying to pass through security. He was detained by police and released from jail on a $2,000 bond and, unsurprisingly, no NFL team has showed interest in the receiver since then.
10 Dominique Easley
Easley was the #1 defensive tackle in his high school class, a two-year starter at Florida, and a 1st round pick in 2014 by the Patriots. So with all of that, how did he manage to get cut just 2 years into his career at the age of 24? Two words: animal negligence. Prior to being cut, Easley was sued by a man in Florida for an alleged dog attack by Easley’s dog. The lawsuit says that Easley was negligent in failing to restrain his dog which ended up biting a man. This came just months after Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction so the Patriots didn’t want anything to do with any of their players involved with a crime; thus Easley was cut. There haven’t been any updates on the status of the lawsuit against Easley but his football career appears to be back on track as he played in all 16 games with the Rams last season.
9 Jarvis Moss
At 6’7” 260 pounds, Moss was one of those “get off the bus first” guys and had the look of future star. After 15 sacks in two seasons under Meyer; Moss declared for the 2007 NFL draft. The Denver Broncos were obviously impressed with his measurables as they traded up in the draft to select him 17th overall. However, Moss would prove that it takes more than physical tools to be a serviceable NFL player as Moss was not mentally tough enough to stick in the league. At the first sign of failure, he contemplated retirement and his physical abilities never translated once the actual games started. He played five seasons with the Broncos and Raiders and combined for 6 sacks before retiring in 2011.
8 Will Hill
Hill was the #1 safety in the nation coming out of high school and started all three of his seasons under Meyer at Florida. But Hill went undrafted in the NFL draft and actually tried out for the Arena Football League before the New York Giants came a-calling. Perhaps NFL personnel knew of Hill’s “problems” and that is why they stayed away from him initially? Hill is an extremely talented player but most of his headlines have come from suspensions and arrests rather than his play on the field.
He has been suspended four different times for violations of the NFL policies on PEDs and substance abuse. Those suspensions have totaled 24 games but those were not the only issues for Hill. He’s also been arrested numerous times for failure to pay child support and after four years in the NFL; teams have finally grown tired of his act and he hasn’t played since 2015.
7 Matt Elam
Outside of Mr. Tebow; Elam is the only winner of Florida’s Mr. Football to play under Meyer at Florida. Elam played just one year under Meyer and is one of the few people on this list to not have at least one national championship. But Elam still had a standout career at Florida and was an All-American as a junior. He was a first round pick by the Ravens as the heir apparent at the safety position to the departing Ed Reed but Elam could barely hold onto the starting position that was gifted to him.
He’s had just one interception in his NFL career and hasn’t started a game since 2014. Then things went from bad to worse in early 2017 when he was popped on drug charges in Miami. Elam was charged with possession of cannabis, possession of cannabis with intent to sell or deliver, and possession of a controlled substance. With his contract also up at this time, the Ravens reacted swiftly to Elam’s arrest with this statement: "We are aware of the arrest of Matt Elam. Matt is not in our plans for the 2017 Ravens." Despite being just 25, I doubt he’ll be in any teams’ plans for the foreseeable future.
6 Janoris Jenkins
The only Pro Bowler to make this list; Jenkins warrants a spot due to also being the only player on this list kicked off the team and forced to transfer to another school. After being the rare true freshman to start in the SEC in 2008, Jenkins first ran afoul of the law in 2009. Jenkins was arrested during a fight outside a bar and when asked by police how the fight started, Jenkins said he thought someone was trying to steal the gold chain around his neck! He stayed out of trouble in 2010 but would be cited for marijuana possession twice in 2011, the second which resulted in his dismissal from the UF program. After transferring to North Alabama for a year, Jenkins seemed to clean up his act. He played four seasons with the Rams before signing a $62.5 million contract with the Giants prior to last season. In 2016 he was named a Pro Bowler for the first time in his career and “appears” to be playing his way off this list.
5 Chris Rainey
A two-sport athlete, Rainey won a national championship under Meyer in 2008 and then won an NCAA championship in the 4x100m relay in track in field two years later. Drafted in the 5th round by Pittsburgh in 2012, Rainey would last all of one season before being released on the same day he was charged with battery. But this wasn’t Rainey’s first run-in with the law as he was arrested while at Florida for stalking. As they often say about NFL players, “You can’t teach speed” and Rainey would soon join the Colts after being cut by Pittsburgh. His stay in Indianapolis would be even shorter as after just two games he was cut for what coach Chuck Pagano classified as a violation of team rules.
He hasn’t played a snap in the NFL since then but is currently applying his trade north of the border in the CFL.
4 Marcus Thomas
Thomas may be the only player on the list who fared better in the NFL than he did at Florida but he is not without issues. He was first suspended while in college for marijuana but that was just the start of his troubles. During his senior season (in a year UF would go on to win a national championship), Thomas was kicked off the Gators team for violating the terms of the reinstatement from his first suspension. He took a trip from Gainesville to Jacksonville even after Meyer told him not to, missed curfew, and blew off a mandatory drug counseling session. These issues caused Thomas to fall to the 4th round where the Broncos drafted him. He managed to stay out of trouble during five NFL seasons but I’m sure he’s kicking himself for missing out on the Gators’ national championship.
3 Chad Jackson
Jackson played just one year under Meyer at Florida, but oh what a year it was. He tied a Gators record with 88 receptions, was a first-team All-SEC selection, and was an honorable mention All-American. That success led to him being the highest drafted wide receiver by Bill Belichick…ever! He was taken in the second round and 36th overall while the Patriots even traded up in the draft to pick Jackson. In his two years in New England, Jackson struggled with leg injuries and would only catch 13 passes in a Patriots uniform. Unsatisfied with his lack of production, the Patriots cut Jackson after his second season with the team and then he would proceed to be signed (and cut) by 3 other NFL teams. The last we heard of Jackson, he was playing for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League which folded in 2012.
2 Tim Tebow
Arguably the greatest player in college football history may have been the worst quarterback in NFL history. Tebow’s placement on this list is, of course, related to his on-field work rather than any problems off the field. Tebow accomplished everything there is to accomplish at the college level including two national titles, a Heisman, and he left Florida as the SEC’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns. After shockingly being a first round pick by Denver (apparently only the Broncos and Patriots draft former Gators), Tebow was known as much for his horrible arm as he was his comeback wins. He led the Broncos to a surprising playoff victory over the Steelers, but also posted the league’s worst completion percentage.
After two years in Denver, the Broncos replaced Tebow with Peyton Manning and Tebow would bounce from the Jets to the Patriots to the Eagles. After last playing football in 2015, Tebow decided to take up baseball after not playing the sport in 11 years. He signed with one of the Mets’ minor league teams and they assigned him to the Columbia Fireflies where Tebow is struggling to hit above the Mendoza Line. Tebow very well may still be in the NFL today if he had switched positions but he apparently would rather be a minor league outfielder than an NFL fullback.
1 Aaron Hernandez
As you’ve seen from some of the earlier names on this list, what a player does off the field can outweigh his play on the field and there is no better example of that than accused murderer (under Massachusetts law, his death vacates the conviction) Aaron Hernandez. Not even the likes of Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady could steer Hernandez in the right direction as he had well-publicized run-ins with the law in both college and the NFL. He went from an All-American at Florida to catching a touchdown in the Super Bowl to murdering a semi-pro football player. While serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Hernandez committed suicide in his jail cell on April 19, 2017.
Like most players and coaches involved with the Patriots; Urban Meyer also hasn’t spoken about Hernandez’s arrest, conviction, and suicide. But we do know that Meyer and Hernandez were pretty close while at Florida; so much so, that they would often read the Bible together in Meyer’s office. Meyer “reportedly” helped cover up some failed drug tests of Hernandez while at Florida, but he is of no fault of Hernandez’s actions. One can only pray that another Florida Gator doesn’t somehow “top” Hernandez and move him down to the #2 spot on this list.