It's official. Georgia's Roquan Smith has declared for the NFL draft Monday morning, choosing the pros over another year of playing for the Bulldogs.
Smith was named a first-team All-American and the Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year by The Associated Press. He led Georgia with 137 tackles, 6½ sacks and 17 quarterback hurries. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Smith was a game-changer with his speed and instincts and is seen as a possible first-round draft pick.
The decision announced Monday by Smith, the Butkus Award winner, was expected. He enjoyed a strong junior season, which boosted his draft status.
Statements from Georgia LB Roquan Smith and head coach Kirby Smart
“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.”
-- Roquan Smith, LB, UGA
“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.”
-- Kirby Smart, Head Football Coach, University of Georgia
"The accolades he has received are a testimony to his ability as a player," Smart said. "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."
Smith joins defensive tackle Trenton Thompson as key starters on the defense who are bypassing their senior seasons to enter the draft. Thompson announced his decision last week.
Georgia (13-2) finished No. 2 in the final Top 25 following its 26-23 overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship game.
Despite his high draft status, Smith said in a statement released by Georgia that the decision at his "crossroads" was not easy.
"I've had discussions with coaches and family and a lot of thought and prayer," Smith said. "The decision to leave is not easy but I know it is the right one."
Smith added, "Georgia will always be my school and my home."
Coach Kirby Smart said in a statement he expects "great success" for Smith in the NFL.
This is a developing story. Depend on us to keep you posted.