Texas junior Connor Williams, an All-American left tackle who missed most of this year with a knee injury, will forgo his final year at UT and jump into the NFL Draft, the school announced.
Williams, a team captain, will also skip the upcoming bowl game, he said in a statement.
“My family and I have decided it is my best interest to forgo the bowl game and my senior season to begin preparing for my professional football career,” Williams said. “One of the reasons I worked so hard to come back from my injury was to help the team reach its goal of playing in a bowl game, and I’m proud we were able to accomplish that.
“I will continue to support my teammates in their efforts to finish the season strong and in the continuing growth that is happening with Texas football.”
Blessed and honored for my time on the 40 acres. Time for the next chapter, as I will be declaring for the NFL Draft. 🤘🏽 pic.twitter.com/oxEAYFZxEQ
— Connor Williams (@Connorwi1liams) November 27, 2017
Williams suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in the third game of the season against USC. From that point on, Williams anguished over whether to work his way back onto the field or just focus on the upcoming draft, UT insiders said.
SBNation projects Williams as the fifth overall pick in its latest mock draft. Others project Williams will be a first-rounder. The Longhorns have not had an offensive lineman drafted at all since 2008.
Linebacker Malik Jefferson, widely expected to go pro, is facing the same decision: should he play in a bowl game or protect his NFL draft status?
Williams eventually decided to get healthy and get back onto the field. He dressed but did not play against Kansas on Nov. 11. But Williams was back in the lineup against West Virginia and pancaked his man on the game’s first offensive play.
His impact was obvious as the Longhorns ran for 233 yards in a 28-14 win that clinched a sixth win, making Texas bowl eligible.
In 2015, Williams arrived on campus as an oversized freshman from Coppell. Discovered by former UT offensive line coach Joe Wickline, Williams became an instant starter. He ultimately started 27 games and earned consensus All-America status as a sophomore.
“I look forward to the process and experiences ahead of me, but remain in such appreciation of how blessed I have been to truly know the 40 acres,” Williams said. “I know, understand and believe the true meaning of ‘Longhorn For Life.’”
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The following text is the complete statement from Texas junior Connor Williams, as released by the university.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have spent the past three years at The University of Texas. The array of emotions and experiences through my years on the 40 Acres has been nothing short of amazing. The relationships I have formed with my teammates, the student body, and the staff have created a bond that will last a lifetime. The blood, sweat, and tears, and having been through so much together, will always hold a special place in my heart. Arriving as a freshman with wide eyes and an open mind, I couldn’t have become the man I am today without those relationships and the lessons I’ve learned here.
“My time here, from calling my father crying and informing him I had been admitted to the Red McCombs Business School, to holding the phone with my mother on the other end trying to inch the words out that my teammates had elected me as team captain, the joy and endeavors I have faced at this amazing University cannot be matched.
“While it comes with some sadness, it also comes with the excitement of moving to the next challenge. My family and I have decided it is my best interest to forgo the bowl game and my senior season to begin preparing for my professional football career. One of the reasons I worked so hard to come back from my injury was to help the team reach its goal of playing in a bowl game, and I’m proud we were able to accomplish that. I will continue to support my teammates in their efforts to finish the season strong and in the continuing growth that is happening with Texas football.
“I can’t thank all of my coaches and everyone at Texas enough. They’ve all done so much for me. Thank you to Charlie Strong and Coach Wickline who were instrumental in bringing me here. Thank you Coach Herman, Coach Warehime and our strength coach Yancy McKnight who have been amazing to work with. I’m better prepared for my future as a football player and as a man because of you and so many who have impacted me here.
“I look forward to the process and experiences ahead of me, but remain in such appreciation of how blessed I have been to truly know the 40 Acres. I know, understand and believe the true meaning of ‘Longhorn For Life.’”