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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Wearing a white suit with red trim and gold, spiked shoes, Dante Fowler Jr. stood out at the NFL draft Thursday night.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were impressed long before he a walked across the stage.
The Jaguars selected the Florida defensive end with the third overall pick in the first round, getting a player whose "physicality was unmatched in this year's draft," general manager Dave Caldwell said.
"When he arrives at a tackle, it's with bad intentions," Caldwell said.
The Jaguars entered the draft looking to upgrade their pass rush, especially with veteran end Chris Clemons turning 34 years old later this year.
Fowler had 14½ sacks in three seasons at nearby Florida, proving to be one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the Southeastern Conference.
Fowler said earlier this month he would be shocked if he didn't go third overall to Jacksonville. The St. Petersburg native had a good visit with Caldwell and coach Gus Bradley, and should fit nicely in the team's 4-3 hybrid scheme.
There were some concerns about Fowler, though, including whether the 6-foot-3, 265-pounder would be too big to be a hybrid end-linebacker.
But his production outweighed any potential concerns.
"I think you see his explosiveness when he hits people, his run and chase," Bradley said. "The thing that I loved is he loves football. That's extremely important to him. He practices hard, he plays hard, how he practices is how he plays. Talking to his coaches and how he operates in practice and some of the players that have played with him and his physicality on the field jumps out at you.
"He is unique ... because of his size and strength and speed."
Caldwell talked openly for months — three years, really — about his draft strategy. When picking in the top five and building a team, Caldwell believes the organization should select a player who plays one of the premier positions — quarterback, left tackle or pass rusher.
Caldwell landed two of those in his first two years in Jacksonville — both in the top five — with left tackle Luke Joeckel in 2013 and then quarterback Blake Bortles last season.
He stuck to the plan by selection Fowler, who had 8½ sacks as a junior last season.
The Jaguars raved about Fowler's motor, pointing to the fact that he rarely, if ever, took plays off. Even in the Birmingham Bowl in January, after Fowler had declared for the draft and long after coach Will Muschamp had been fired, he showed up on just about every defensive play.
"He's physical, he's tough, he loves the game, he plays like he loves the game, he's heavy-handed, he's a three-down player, he's got special get-off, he can rush the passer, he's got long arms, he's a good fit in our scheme and we need an edge rusher, we need a young edge rusher," Caldwell said. "Not only is he a young edge rusher, but he's flexible where you could play him in a lot of different positions."
He's got style, too.
Fowler turned heads — in Chicago and in Jacksonville's draft room — with his draft-night attire.
"It's something unique, something different," Fowler said. "I'm a guy that's really out there, not out there, but just a guy that just wants to do different things. I'm a guy that's into fashion, so it's something I wanted to do for a little minute."
Fowler said he saw former Florida cornerback Joe Haden wear those shoes and just had to have them. He couldn't find them at first, but then eventually tracked them down. Then he had to pick a suit to match. He settled on the all-white combination.
The outfit surely will be talked about again when he arrives in Jacksonville.
"I don't want to take their individuality away but I also want them to be ... it's not about them," Bradley said. "It's about us and how we do things, but it's a special day. We will have visits I'm sure."
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