Notre Dame LB Smith to skip senior season, enter NFL draft

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith announced Monday he will skip his final year of eligibility and enter the NFL draft despite sustaining a serious injury to his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Ohio State.

With many projecting Smith as a possible top 10 draft pick, the decision to forgo his senior season was expected before his injury in the first quarter against the Buckeyes. Smith has led the Irish in tackles the past two seasons and this year won the Butkus Award, given to college football's best linebacker.

Smith made the announcement in a 55-second videotaped message on YouTube that he released via Twitter in which he thanked God and his supporters, especially those from his hometown of Fort Wayne. He said he was looking forward to the opportunity to play in the NFL.

''Really just looking forward to the future, with my decision and moving forward, I'm deciding to head to the NFL draft. It's really just perseverance from here with the adversity I'm going through right now dealing with the knee injury,'' he said.

Smith has not disclosed the extent of his knee injury, which Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly described as ''significant'' after the game.

Smith, a team captain, had 114 tackles this season, including a career-high 15 tackles in the regular-season finale against Stanford. He also has five pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Smith becomes just the 13th Notre Dame junior to declare for the draft since the NFL started allowing underclassmen to do so in 1989, joining wide receiver Will Fuller, who announced his decision on Jan. 3.

Three seniors with a year of eligibility left, left tackle Ronnie Stanley, running back C.J. Prosise and cornerback KeiVarae Russell, also have announced they will enter the draft.

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Link to Smith's announcement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN8GZlnDe1w

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