Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence will forgo his senior season to declare for the 2019 NFL draft, he announced on Wednesday.
"I don't even know where to begin right now," Lawrence wrote in a statement. "Clemson has been a true blessing for me these past three years. I have accomplished the three things I wanted the most: to grow as a man, to grow spiritually, and to become a better football player. I'm also thankful for all the adversities and storms I went through here at Clemson. It has helped to make me who I am today."
The junior from Wake Forest, N.C. was suspended for both of the Tigers' College Football Playoff games after testing positive for the banned substance ostarine.
Lawrence was suspended for the Cotton Bowl national semifinal win over No. 3 Notre Dame on Dec. 29 after a supplemental sample of a failed drug test returned positive results for the banned muscle-growth supplement. After additional testing was done to weed out false positive results, the NCAA upheld Lawrence's suspension for the national championship game, along with those of Zach Giella and Braden Galloway.
Clemson defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide, 44–16, in Monday's title game. While Lawrence was not able to play for the Tigers, he was allowed to travel with the team to Santa Clara, Calif., to witness the win.
Lawrence told reporters that he did not know how the banned substance entered his body and said he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs. His ban, if upheld, could have lasted for as long as a year.
“We get tested regularly and we know not to do anything stupid or selfish like that,” he said, per ESPN. “That’s why this is such a shock.”
The 6'4", 350-pound tackle is widely projected to be a first-round pick. Lawrence had 37 tackles, 7.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks in 13 games this season, finishing his career at Clemson with 131 tackles, 18 for loss, and 10 sacks.
Lawrence joins teammates Tre Lamar, a linebacker, and Trayvon Mullen, cornerback, in deciding to depart early for the draft.