Florida's Ricky Pearsall ready to move past his famous catch and add NFL clips to his highlight reel

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Ricky Pearsall’s viral moment lasted months and even gained traction in recent weeks.

It's sure to garner more attention during the NFL draft.

The former Florida standout is one of approximately a dozen receivers expected to be selected in the first two rounds of the draft beginning Thursday night. He’s widely viewed as a second-round pick in what appears to be the deepest group of receivers in years, maybe even decades.

And when Pearsall’s name gets called, there’s one clip that’s sure to follow: his one-handed catch against Charlotte last September in the Swamp that brought fans to their feet and became an internet sensation minutes later.

“A lot of people actually, like, know me for the catch,” Pearsall said recently. “That’s it. So I’m like, ‘You guys got to watch the tape. There’s more than just that one catch.’ I’ve made a lot of catches, I feel like. But, yeah, a lot of people bring it up.”

Including NFL general managers, coaches and scouts.

Pearsall wowed many of them during the Senior Bowl in early February and again at the NFL combine a month later. He was so impressive during those workouts that he chose to be merely a spectator at Florida’s pro day in late March.

“I kept going back and forth, to be honest,” he said. "It was something that I had to really think about for sure. Just talking to my team and my people in my corner and my foundation, we just thought it was the best idea for myself.”

It ultimately came down to this: what else did Pearsall have to prove? He covered the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the combine, tying him for 10th among receivers. He led the position group in the three-cone drill and ranked third with a 42-inch vertical jump. He put up 17 reps on the bench press (225 pounds), which tied him for sixth, and nearly reached 11 feet in the broad jump.

Throw in flawless routes and sure-handed catches, and there wasn’t anything more the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Arizona native could have done to improve his draft stock.

“It feels good to be able to show those kinds of things,” he said. “But, for me, I just want to show I’m a great football player.”

Pearsall finished his senior year with 65 receptions for 965 yards and four touchdowns, falling short of becoming the first Florida receiver since Taylor Jacobs in 2002 to reach the 1,000-yard milestone.

He ended up with 159 catches for 2,420 yards and 14 touchdowns in five seasons, the first three at Arizona State. He also ran for five scores and threw a TD pass.

“This guy is a very underrated player,” Florida coach Billy Napier said. “He’s bigger than you think. He’s more explosive than you think. He's highly skilled. He can get open at the line. He can separate at the top of the route. And he’s got fantastic ball skills and hand selection.”

Pearsall caught passes from Anthony Richardson and Jayden Daniels. He played alongside Brandon Aiyuk and Johnny Wilson. Although he lacked wins and championships, he made plenty of college memories.

Beating then-No. 7 Utah in his first game in the Swamp tops the list. As for that spectacular catch a year later? Well, that's a close second.

He insists he’s made better ones in practice. But the leaping one-hander against Charlotte was revered because Pearsall hung onto the ball despite getting sandwiched between defenders Dontae Balfour and Isaiah Hazel.

“A lot of people make good one-handed catches, but to go through contact like that I feel like is another thing,” Pearsall said.

It's his No. 1 highlight for now — and surely will be featured on draft night — but teammates and coaches believe he's capable of more at the next level.

“He’s a freak,” Florida quarterback Graham Mertz said. “There’s no gray area. He’s going to light you up. He’s fast. He’s quick. Someone’s going to get a baller.”



Mark Long, The Associated Press