Two former Gators on USA TODAY Sports’ All-Ekeler Team

While the upcoming college football season is on the minds of most of the Gator Nation, plenty of alumni will also be gearing up for the 2023 National Football League schedule as well.

Florida is still the only team in the conference to have a player selected in every draft of the common draft era, which continued once again last April, which means there is no shortage of former players to keep an eye on.

Among those former Gators who still have orange and blue running through their veins are a pair who earned a spot on USA TODAY Sports’ All-Ekeler Team. This particular honor is given to players who have put up exemplary performances at the highest level of the sport without any proper recognition.

The list is named after Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler, whose 38 touchdowns over the past two seasons are 12 more than any other player during that stretch, while his 3,195 yards from scrimmage since 2021 rank fourth in the league. Much like Rodney Dangerfield, this guy seems to get no respect.

The first mention was defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who is currently with the Detroit Lions.

DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s background is just a touch different (than CBs Rasul Douglas and Kendall Fuller), given he was a fourth-rounder and has yet to win a championship. However he was a key component of Philly’s NFC champion defense in 2022 while tying for the league lead with six picks. We’ll let Douglas and Fuller – each has a pair of pick-sixes over the past two seasons – line up wide while motormouth Gardner-Johnson, now with Detroit, can plug into the secondary anywhere – though we especially value his ability to man the slot.

Also listed was place-kicker Evan McPherson, who has proven his worth after the Cincinnati Bengals took a gamble on him in the fifth round of the 2021 NFL draft — the highest-picked special teams player that year.

Evan “Money Mac” McPherson has typically been on the money for the Bengals in his two NFL seasons, drilling 52 of 62 field-goal tries. But he really shines in the playoffs, where he’s been perfect on 19 FG attempts, including a pair of game-winners on the final play on the way to Super Bowl 56. We also value McPherson’s swagger… and didn’t really mind when he skipped Cincinnati’s halftime in order to watch the epic Super Bowl halftime show in Los Angeles. When you’re playing in Justin Tucker’s perennial Pro Bowl shadow, gotta do whatever you can to snatch some limelight.

The NFL kicks off its 104th season on Thursday night, Sept. 7, in Kansas City, Missouri, with the league’s annual primetime kickoff game. The defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs will host the Detroit Lions at Arrowhead Stadium with a start time of 8:20 p.m. EDT and can be watched on NBC Sports.

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire