A benefit of having worked in the strength and conditioning world for several years at the college level is that you develop connections with programs all over college football. Having interned at the University of Florida and the University of Iowa before starting with Steelers Depot, I had the opportunity to coach a host of former NFL players including Kyle Pitts, Tristan Wirfs, and CJ Gardner-Johnson just to name a few. Florida DL Gervon Dexter ended up coming to Florida after I left the program, but the coaching staff I worked with was able to give me some great insight into the player as well as the man prior to talking with him at the NFL Combine.
After introducing myself to Dexter and talking about the coaching staff we both knew, I asked him if he met with the Steelers and what his takeaways were from that meeting.
“Ya, I spoke with the Steelers,” Dexter answered. “It was a formal meeting. Those guys are amazing, man. They’re straightforward with it. I looked them in their eyes. They’re completely honest. You can tell they’re honest, man. So yeah, they’re great guys. You can tell that they’re great guys and they love what they do, and they love being there.”
It’s great to hear that Dexter’s meeting with Pittsburgh went off without a hitch, being that Mike Tomlin is such a relatable guy for numerous players. It probably also helps that the Steelers have an in at the University of Florida with DL Coach Karl Dunbar’s son, Karmichael, being on the current strength staff for the Gators, the staff that replaced my coaches who transitioned to Ole Miss this past season.
When it came to goals for the combine workouts, Dexter had two particular goals in mind.
“I want to run sub-five for sure and put up at least 25 or more in the bench press,” Dexter said.
Dexter fell just short of his bench press goal, putting up 22 reps on the bar, but did manage to rip off a 4.88 40 at 6’6, 310lb. Dexter is quite the athlete for his size, showing impressive feats of strength and power to throw blockers to the side as well as the burst and pursuit to run down QBs and ballcarriers in the backfield. Still, when asked if he’s shown everything he can do in college, Dexter knows that there is so much untapped potential that he can reach with further development.
“I think there’s a lot more to see,” Dexter said. “I’ve showed flashes and it’s like I said, there’s no ceiling. I don’t think anyone here has showed everything that they have. I think there’s a lot more and I for sure can maximize my potential. With my length and physical ability, I could play wherever a defensive line coach needs me. If it is inside or outside, with my physical attributes, I feel like I can do that.”
When completing the pre-draft profile on Dexter, you see an athletically gifted yet raw defensive lineman that needs some seasoning and refinement to capitalize on his rare physical traits. He has the size, height, and athletic traits you just can’t teach and has flashed those traits over the course of his three seasons in college. However, he needs to work on technical parts of his game like pad level, playing with a firm base, and stinging together pass rush moves outside of the bull rush.
On that topic, I then asked Dexter how he is going to win more as a pass rusher at the next level outside of brute force which he so heavily relied on at the college level.
“So, as soon as I get there, I’m looking to get with a veteran and see how they utilize their tools and just ad tools,” Dexter said. “Like I talked to Mr. John Randle a lot and tried to pick his brain on how to rush the passer. And so, I’m just looking to add tools to my game and tools to my rushing ability. I’m a bigger guy… a longer guy as well. When you’re in a three tech, you don’t get that much space, so you got a timer on when you need to get to the quarterback. So, I’m looking to learn a lot and free myself up a little quicker. So, after the bull rush or after the initial punch, just cleaning myself up and freeing myself.”
It’s great to hear that Dexter has reached out to and spoken with a former play like John Randle who is considered one of the best pass rushing DTs of all time. Randle is a Hall of Famer and seven-time All-Pro, having played 14 seasons and amassed 137.5 regular season sacks and 29 forced fumbles, being one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in his era. While Dexter is a completely different body type, Learning how to work off blocks and add more tools to his toolbox from Randle is a positive sign of Dexter’s commitment to getting better away from the facility.
I then asked Dexter if there is any player he likes to model his game after currently in the league, to which Dexter replied with a guy that was also raw coming out of college in the SEC but has since become one of the best defensive linemen in football.
“I’ve tried to model my game a lot after Chris Jones,” Dexter said. “Definitely his length and the way he rushes. He also uses his ability to power rush and then clean himself up like I spoke about. So that’s kind of the guy who I model myself after.”
Chris Jones was drafted in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State, the school my Florida coaching staff was at prior to taking the job with the Gators. Jones also measured in at 6’6, 310lb just like Dexter, but had longer arms (34 1/2”). He posted only modest production in three years of college before declaring early for the draft (8.5 sacks in three seasons), but really came into his own with further development in the league, posting 15.5 sacks in just his third season.
Talking to my former Florida coaches, Dexter is a player that may not be the same level of freak that Jones was when they worked with him, but still is a player that they see as only scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. He was extremely raw coming into college and has taken notable steps forward every season till now. He has a lot to work on regarding his fundamentals and the stats are necessarily eye-popping, but getting a guy that could be a poor man’s version of Chris Jones in a similar spot that he got drafted several years ago is a tantalizing proposition to say the least.
There are plenty of players that fizzle out of the league that have potential but fail to apply that potential or develop at the next level. Talking to my former coaching staff, that’s not the case with Dexter as he is a great guy and a hard worker that will continue to get better. That’s the type of guy you want to bet on maximizing his physical gifts. Dexter sees it the same way, stating that the team that takes him will be getting a quality person both on and off the field.
“I would like for them to see my character,” Dexter said. “I’m a great teammate. That’s how like to hold myself. I think if you have a great locker room, you’ll have a great team. So, I’ve carried myself like that throughout my college career. So, I would like them to know that they’re going to get a dependable player and as well as durable player. So that’s what I want ’em to know.”
Gervon Dexter checks a lot of boxes for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has the measurables, pedigree, connections to the team, and hearts and smarts you want to see in a Pittsburgh Steeler. He will likely be a Day Two selection and matches a critical need at defensive line for Pittsburgh, having that rare body type that fits their system. Should the Steelers not get Clemson’s Bryan Bresee at #17 or #32, there’s a good chance that they target Dexter with one of their second round picks this spring.