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Q&A: A reporter’s take on Dominique Easley

We’ve already learned a little bit about Dominique Easley, the Patriots’ first-round pick (29th overall) and new interior pass rusher. For even more insight, we turn to an old friend who has good perspective – Palm Beach Post sports writer Jason Lieser, who now covers the Miami Heat but previously covered the Florida Gators from 2010-2014, which happens to be the exact time frame Easley was in Gainesville.

Jason was nice enough to take a few minutes out of his busy playoff schedule to answer some questions about Easley for us:

What was your reaction when you heard Easley went in the first round?

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He is widely believed to have first-round ability, but there were questions about his health and discipline. When he was at full strength, which was rare during his time at Florida, he probably had the fastest first step of any defensive lineman in the SEC. He never put up dominant statistics, but was terrifically disruptive.

What type of player was he when healthy? Where did the Gators use him in the defense?

Florida had a lot of depth issues during Easley’s career and moved him around because he was one of the few proven talents available. He was reasonably effective at defensive end, but clearly felt more comfortable and played better at tackle. He can be effective at tackle in the 4-3 or 3-4, and New England will have the flexibility to use him on the outside if necessary.

Easley tore both ACLs – how did they happen, and how concerned would you be that he can return fully healthy?

He tore both of them in non-contact incidents, the left as a sophomore and the right early in his senior season. It is tough to project whether he will bounce back from the latest injury, but he seemed to completely recover from the first one after about a year. He was slow the season after the injury, but got his speed back heading into the 2013 season. It would have been interesting to see what kind of year Easley put together as a senior because he was scary in his first four games.

What was Easley like to cover? What’s his personality like? Was he a team captain or well-liked by his teammates? Do you have a favorite story?

Dominique Easley cannot be explained. The closest comparison I can think of personality-wise is Tracy Jordan from 30 Rock. New England is an interesting spot for him to land because that seems like the team most likely to shut down some of his antics.

After a big win at Florida State, he emerged from the locker room with a giant barrel of animal crackers under his arm and spoke of the afterlife. He carried around a Chucky doll at all times and treated it like an actual child. He made some vaguely sexual references about what he did to LSU’s offensive line two years ago. He constantly dances in between plays. He will start a fight with anybody on any opposing team at any time. He yelled something that cannot be printed here at the Tennessee band. I don’t know how he found it, but when he was a sophomore, before he had really accomplished anything, he came charging out of the tunnel with a tractor chain hanging from his neck.

He claims to not actually be interested in football and does not watch it on TV, preferring instead to go with SpongeBob. He was asked once how it is possible that he does not enjoy the sport he plays. He said, “I just don’t really care about it. I just don’t care about it. I enjoy beating up people.”

Florida actually sent him to last year’s SEC Media Days, which were in Alabama, and he was asked a question about the legacy of Bear Bryant. Easley responded by asking if that was some kind of cartoon character.

Most of that gets filed under goofiness. Volatile, but in a fun way – if that’s possible. Easley was a media favorite and seemed to be well-liked by the majority of his coaches and teammates. And no one ever questioned his toughness or work ethic.

More coverage:

Live updates: NFL Draft rounds 2 and 3

Christopher L. Gasper: Patriots surprise by staying put in first round

Patriots draft Dominique Easley at No. 29

Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.
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