ATHENS, Ga. - As Georgia football fans had feared, Georgia All-American Roquan Smith will leave the University of Georgia for the NFL.
The linebacker from Montezuma announced Monday that he will not return for his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Smith, who was selected as the Butkus Award winner recognizing college football's best linebacker, leaves Athens as a unanimous All-American and the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year in helping the Bulldogs play for the College Football National Championship.
In a statement released by the UGA Sports Information Office, Smith said, "
“I think back to growing up in Macon County and all the family and community people of my hometown that provided so many opportunities. The teachers who educated me, the coaches who taught me how to play the games, and those who taught me how to play football all contributed to where I am today. And I can’t believe how fortunate I have been to be part of the Georgia Bulldog family these past three years. I owe so much to the Athletic Association, our academic staff, student services, and the University faculty and administration for the environment in which I’ve been able to grow.
“I’m so grateful for my teammates who have always supported me every step of the way. And no thanks are enough for the coaches and staff who have provided the leadership, inspiration, and tireless hours in helping me develop as a player but also as a man. What we accomplished this year is only the beginning of what’s to come for this program. I’m proud to be a part of the foundation that Coach Smart is building on and his leadership and direction are going to bring many more great times and memories to the Bulldog Nation.
“As you know this is somewhat of a crossroads for me. I’ve had discussions with coaches and family and a lot of thought and prayer. The decision to leave is not easy but I know it is the right one. Georgia will always be my school and my home and I sincerely wish all the best to the coaches, staff, and players as they continue to reach higher goals in the years to come.”
In a statement, Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart said, "
“Words cannot describe how much Roquan has meant to our program. The accolades he has received are a testimony to his ability as a player. But he has also demonstrated on and off the field the qualities of a great leader who has commanded the respect of all his teammates as well as our coaching and support staffs. As the head coach, it’s been a privilege to see him develop as a student-athlete and inspirational leader who has made immeasurable contributions to our team and to the program we are building. While we will miss him, we wish him all the best and know that great success awaits him at the next level.”
Most analysts project Smith as a 1st Round pick in the April NFL Draft, April 26-28 in Arlington, Texas.