When you’re 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds of almost pure muscle, you won’t encounter a lot of resistance (either literal or figurative) when you find clever, mostly harmless ways to act out.
In that sense, it’s good to be Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley. Who, you ask? You know, the nice young man who brings a knife-wielding Chucky Doll with him on pregame Gator Walks.
Why? “I just like the movie and think Chuck is really funny,” Easley told GatorZone’s Scott Carter last fall. “He’s just my friend.”
A birthday gift from his girlfriend, that’s just Easley’ pregame ritual before he reaches the field. He emerged from the tunnel for the Gators’ 2011 game against Tennessee with a giant chain — not bling, a literal chain — draped around his neck, because he was “ready to get unleashed.” He celebrated teammate Matt Elam’s game-clinching interception in that same game by clotheslining Elam.
And Easley is always dancing. Whether it’s before lining up in the trenches or resting on the sidelines, he is always shaking his moneymaker. No one dares to ask him to stop. This is the same player who Rivals.com ranked the No. 7 player in America in 2010 who was accused of tackling former Alabama football player Reggie Myles from behind outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last October without provocation (no charges were filed) after the Gators’ 38-10 loss to the Crimson Tide.
It makes complete sense that this eccentric man-child of a football player was once … homesick?
The junior is a rarity among SEC football rosters: a northerner. (Only eight members of UF’s roster, which is close to 100-strong, are from states north of the Mason Dixon Line.) Not only that, Easley is a New Yorker, having starred at Curtis High School on Staten Island.
Adjusting to life in Gainesville, particularly after his choice of Florida surprised many close to him, did not come easily for Easley.
“I was homesick,” he told Fox Sports Florida last year. “Gainesville, the country, is a whole different place for me than New York.”
Easley played only six games in 2010. At one point he earned a damning “not part of the team right now” label from then-Gators head coach Urban Meyer. Easley wanted desperately to transfer but stayed at the behest of his family.
Meyer resigned at the end of 2010 and was replaced by Will Muschamp, who met with Easley before last season to discuss the troubles that plagued him his freshman season. And with that, Easley had a fresh start – and could start acting like himself again.
Easley’s antics aren’t a front he puts up in response to his high-profile, SEC environment. Before games at Curtis High, he bypassed brooding silence in favor of pulling pranks on teammates and coaches and stealing things from his friends’ lockers. He danced then, too. Easley’s mother, Carine, says it was (and remains) her son’s way of focusing.
A logical assessment. It was right around the time that Easley’s dancing and other antics started making waves that Easley also started contributing to Florida’s on-field fortunes for the better.
“He gives us a great energy boost,” linebacker Jelani Jenkins said last September. “He’s funny. He’s always keeping us loose. He plays his best when he is having fun.”
Easley finished 2011 with 37 tackles, including 7.5 for a loss. Quirks such as driving a scooter through the Florida football facility draw laughs, whereas a year ago there would have been concern.
That same attitude will no doubt come in handy as Easley tries to rebound from a torn ACL suffered in last year’s loss to Florida State while switching positions from defensive tackle to defensive end.
Easley’s potential and intimidating presence are unquestioned and have Gator fans hoping the scariest man in college football can direct his own version of a horror movie for opposing SEC offenses this fall.