LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood DE Dante Fowler has already committed to Florida State, don't expect the junior to get complacent. His showing at the 2011 Under Armour Underclassman Combine proved that.
Fowler, a starter since his freshman year, gave Florida State his verbal commitment, but it wasn't an easy decision. But when Urban Meyer decided to leave Florida, it may have been the key to Fowler deciding on FSU.
"Florida was actually leading before Coach Meyer left," Fowler said. "When coach Meyer left Florida, I started looking at Florida State a lot harder. My dad grew up a big fan of Florida State and the Noles were always at the top of my list.
"I didn't want to go too far away from home and my parents wouldn't let me anyway. I had schools like Oregon and USC that were looking at me but my mom said, 'That's fine, but your aren't going there because it's too far.'"
Fowler is a 6-foot-3, 220-pound defensive end who could end being a hybrid linebacker-defensive end for Florida State. He's strong enough to put his hand on the ground and quick enough to play linebacker.
He tested extremely well, running a 4.65 40-yard dash, posting a 33-inch vertical leap and was at or near the top in the other drills.
"Just because I'm committed, it doesn't mean that I don't have anything to prove," Fowler said. "I quit basketball and prepared for the Under Armour combine for the past two months. I think you get to a point where you don't have to prove yourself to anyone else but yourself. I wanted to prove to myself that I'm one of the best.
And while some wondered why he committed so early instead of seeing what other offers he could land, it's easy to see why it happened when it did.
"My mother runs our house." Fowler said, laughing. "I wasn't going to go very far away from home. I really get along well with the defensive line coach [D.J. Eliot] and Florida State behind coach [Jimbo] Fisher seems to be back on the rise. There's stability in that but the main reason I committed early is that now I can concentrate on my academics. I'm preparing to take my ACT and SAT. If I don't do well on those tests or if I don't do well in the classroom, that scholarship offer to play for Florida State doesn't mean anything.
"I can also start recruiting for Florida State. I haven't talked to too many of the guys here yet but I've had a few come up to me and talk to me. There's definitely a lot of talent here and I'm definitely going to talk to a couple of guys before I leave. I want to help Florida State get the top recruiting class in 2012."
In one-on-one drills between the offensive linemen and the defensive linemen, Fowler was dominant as he took on some tremendously talented offensive lineman. He drew high praise from Under Armour defensive line coach Kenard Lang. Lang, a former NFL defensive end who played college ball at the University of Miami.
"I won't hold it against him for committing to Florida State," Lang said, jokingly. "The young man is a great player. He's got all the tools that the college recruiters are looking for. He's very fast, strong and smart. Dante has the it factor and he's got ability that can't be taught."
Fowler is flattered by all the compliments but then again, he's very grounded.
"I've heard people compare me to [Dallas Cowboys DE] Demarcus Ware," Fowler said. "But really, I just want to be Dante Fowler. I've got a lot of improvement in me and I'm going to keep working harder."