The former Gators defensive back proved he could play in the NFL after not being selected in the draft a year ago. Former Gators defensive back Brian Poole talks with head coach Jim McElwain at UF Pro Day last month. (Photo: Adler Garfield/For UAA Communications) GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award went to the player who outperformed his contract the most based on playing time, former Gators defensive back Brian Poole would have earned the award.
The undrafted Poole signed with Atlanta as a free agent and in his first season, Poole played in 23 games – all four preseason games as he tried to make the team, followed by 16 regular-season and three playoff games, capped by Super Bowl 51.
"That’s a lot of football, but it’s great,” Poole said. "It’s worth it."
Poole signed with the Falcons a year ago this month, undeterred after he went undrafted. When Poole returned to UF recently to watch his former teammates participate in Pro Day, he reflected on how far he has come over the past 12 months.
Poole suffered a collarbone injury in the East-West Shrine Game in January 2016, placing his draft status in jeopardy. Once fully recovered, Poole proved he could play in the NFL. Former UF defensive back Brian Poole makes a tackle for the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. "I knew what I brought to the table,” Poole said. "I wouldn’t say I was surprised by anything. It was just a good feeling to show them [outsiders] what I could do, because they obviously didn’t think I could do it, they obviously didn’t think I could get it done."
Poole got the job done so well that he received the largest bonus of any player from the NFL’s performance-based pay system. Poole received a bonus of $371,873.11 last month in addition to his base salary of $540,000. Poole’s bonus edged that of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who received $355,000. Poole started 11 of 19 games including the playoffs and finished with 74 tackles, an interception and a sack.
By the time UF’s Pro Day arrived in 2016, Poole was able to participate in all the drills except the bench press. He said he felt like he improved his stock for the draft.
"Obviously not enough,” he said. "I still didn’t get drafted."
A year later, Poole encouraged his former teammates as they worked out in front of NFL personnel in preparation for the NFL Draft next week.
Poole watched closely as defensive backs Quincy Wilson , Teez Tabor and Marcus Maye performed drills. According to draft analysts, all three are likely to go in the first three rounds, with Wilson a first-rounder according to various projections. Tabor projected as the highest pick of the trio when the season started.
Others may doubt Tabor, but don’t include Poole in that club.
"Turn on the tape,” he said. "I’m not going to say [combine results] don’t matter, but turn on the tape. Tabor is a great player. A playmaker, always around the […]