GAINESVILLE — Vernon Hargreaves III didn't waste any time making his mark at Florida.
The Wharton High defensive back enrolled in the summer of his freshman season and immediately started working out to contribute. He started the last 10 games of the 2013 season at cornerback and won a pile of awards.
Hargreaves was named a third-team All-American by The Associated Press, the national defensive freshman of the year by College Football News and a first-team freshman All-American on teams by The Sporting News and others. He was a first-team All-SEC pick by AP and the leagues' coaches.
Hargreaves finished tied for seventh in the conference with three interceptions and was second in passes defended at 1.17 per game. His 11 pass breakups tied for the most by a freshman in Florida history, matched only by Janoris Jenkins in 2008.
Near the end of the season, he was a captain for the South Carolina game — a rarity for a freshman.
It would be easy for Hargreaves (5-foot-11, 194 pounds) to feel comfortable about his place on the team after such a huge first season. But Gators coach Will Muschamp said that's not the case, that Hargreaves remains hungry.
“I think it's the intangibles,'' Muschamp said. “He's been raised right. Saw his mom. She was here in town making sure he is doing right. That is where a lot of it goes to.
“I worry about other guys that maybe aren't as mature, aren't as hungry, aren't as driven. ... He's a guy, if we start lifting at 10, he'll be in there at 9:30 stretching on his own. When weights are over, he's stretching. He's a pro at what he does. He understands that part of it and what it takes to be successful and expect for him to have another good year.''
Hargreaves can tell the difference a year makes.
“Things have definitely slowed down for me,'' said Hargreaves, a former winner of the Guy Toph Award, given to the top senior football player in Hillsborough County. “When I first came in last year, I thought things were fast and I didn't know if I was going to be ready to play. Now, I'm obviously settled in, I'm comfortable, my confidence is high and I'm just trying to be better.''
He's trying to take more of a leadership role this fall with his younger teammates.
“I know that I know the plays now. I know what I can do,'' said Hargreaves, who is on the watch list for five postseason awards, including the Walker Camp Player of the Year. “And I've just got to earn their trust and they'll probably want to listen to me. That's where my leadership grows.
“They've seen me play on TV, but they've never been around me in meetings. I feel like I have to gain that trust. They might trust me already but I feel like I need to do a little bit more to gain that trust.''
A year ago, defensive end Jon Bullard quickly realized Hargreaves was not a typical freshman.
“He came in very mature,” Bullard said. “He was a highly-recruited athlete, but you couldn't tell. He came in to work every day. He did extra, and as a young guy that's rare that you see. You could tell that he takes pride in what he's doing, and that's paid off.''