FOXBORO, Mass. — Call it the black eye on Brandon Spikes' pre-draft resume.
The playmaking middle linebacker appeared to be a certain top-20 pick if he left Florida after his junior season to enter the 2009 NFL draft. But Spikes returned to Gainesville for the chance to win a third national championship, and his stock eventually dropped for three reasons.
First, Spikes' play suffered as he battled injuries during his senior year. Second, he was busted by television cameras for trying to eye-gouge Georgia running back Washaun Ealey. And third, Spikes was clocked running a 5.0-second 40-yard dash in pre-draft workouts.
All three issues caused Spikes to drop to the Patriots at No. 62 last month, and New England knows it's fortunate to come away with such an on-field production artist. But it didn?t stop Spikes from having to rehash the eye-gouging incident that drew national attention last season. Florida head coach Urban Meyer suspended Spikes for the first half of the Gators' next game against Vanderbilt, but after facing so much criticism for the light punishment, Spikes suspended himself for the entire contest.
"I feel like [I needed to take it like] a man," Spikes said from the Gillette Stadium practice fields. "If you do something, you should know your consequences. I did it. I got caught, and I suspended myself. The reason why I did that is I know little kids watch the game. When I was little, I watched linebackers and tried to mold my game. I didn?t want younger kids thinking that?s how the game should be played. It was just emotion, a big rivalry game. It just happened. We were taking shots at each other. I did it. I got punished for it, and you move on from your mistakes."
Spikes knew the best way to move past the situation was to be honest about it. He was forthright about the incident, and the linebacker who has otherwise been so heavily praised for his leadership abilities now hopes he can put the episode out of sight.