Transfer defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk shares an off-campus apartment with Kyree Campbell, the very player Florida is bringing in Newkirk to replace. They don’t see one another much because Campbell is away training for the draft, so Newkirk’s primary roommate is Cowboy, an 11-week-old American Bully XL he adopted. 

“He looks like a cow with his black and gray spots,” Newkirk said.

On a recent dog walk, they were surprised by a downpour and sheltered beneath a pavilion for a half-hour, where Cowboy, unruffled by the thunder, playfully lapped at the rain. Puppy life can be fun. It also can be harrowing, such as the day when Cowboy broke through his barricade in the apartment and ate a Tide Pod, prompting Newkirk to make an emergency dash for the veterinarian.

Newkirk’s mom cautioned against taking on a puppy during a period when her son is acclimating to new teammates and preparing for his make-or-break final year of college football.

“I told him he’s got a lot going on and that a puppy is a big responsibility,” Patricia Sowell said. “Pets are just like a child.”

Fortunately, the Tide Pod scare is over and the vet pronounced Cowboy healthy. Newkirk appears to be tip-top also, assuaging the worries of a mom who encouraged him through injury setbacks and academic washouts. The kid who left high school without a diploma in the spring of 2016 arrived at Florida this semester as a graduate transfer from Auburn University sporting an interdisciplinary studies degree in communication and kinesiology. He also has a rejuvenated dream of reaching the NFL.