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The first Bruin of the offseason has opted to go pro.

UCLA football defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia declared for the 2022 NFL Draft on Monday, announcing his decision on Twitter. Ogbonnia also said he will not be playing for the Bruins in the upcoming Holiday Bowl, instead taking time off to rehab from an injury he had been playing through this fall.

Ogbonnia left UCLA's Sept. 18 game against Fresno State with an injury, but he still managed to start in all 12 games this regular season and finish his career in Westwood without missing a single game. Ogbonnia had been watching the Bruins' most recent bowl practices from the sidelines in sweats, not participating in team drills but still remaining at the team facilities.

The 6-foot-4, 320-pound lineman finished the year with 30 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks, setting career-highs across the board.

Ogbonnia walked during the team's Senior Night festivities Nov. 27 against Cal, but he still had a year of super senior eligibility remaining had he wanted to return. Instead, he becomes the first member of the Bruins who is officially taking a step towards the NFL, and he could end up being the first of many.

Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, running back Zach Charbonnet, receiver Kyle Philips, tight end Greg Dulcich, left tackle Sean Rhyan and safety Quentin Lake are among the other UCLA players who are most likely to leave Westwood early. As of Monday, Ogbonnia is the only one who had made his intentions public.

Ogbonnia was the Bruins' most productive defensive lineman in 2021 and second-most productive in 2020 behind only Osa Odighizuwa, who left UCLA early to enter last year's NFL Draft. Ogbonnia went in the third round to the Dallas Cowboys and is a Pro Bowl candidate as a rookie.

Defensive line coach Johnny Nansen left his position at UCLA to become the next defensive coordinator at Arizona on Dec. 1, so the Bruins are going to look very different up front next year on the field and on the sidelines. Datona Jackson was also honored on Senior Night and could leave, and depth pieces AJ Campbell, Tyler Kiehne and John Ward have entered the transfer portal.

A trio of freshmen – Jay Toia, Tiaoalii Savea and Quintin Somerville – stands as the future of UCLA's interior defensive line, with veterans Tyler Manoa, Odua Isibor and Martin Andrus Jr. likely sticking around another year as well.

Even with that group coming back next year, Ogbonnia's production and experience will be missed. In 43 career appearances, Ogbonnia racked up 79 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

Ogbonnia was pegged as a potential late-round pick back in September by Zack Patraw, the President of Sports Illustrated and FanNation's The NFL Draft Bible.

"He's a block eater, he opens up lanes for linebackers to come downhill or pass rush up the middle," Patraw told All Bruins. "You're not gonna get excited to see a guy eat up blocks, but he's fun to watch just take on double teams."

Ogbonnia was going in the fourth and fifth rounds of multiple mock drafts as recently as November.

In addition to playing on UCLA's defensive line over the past four season, Ogbonnia also spent part of his collegiate career power lifting and competing for UCLA track and field in the shot put. Ogbonnia has maxed out at squatting 683 pounds and won the 2019 Pan American U20 Championships in Costa Rica with a shot put 20.72 meters.

Before the season, Ogbonnia was No. 57 on The Athletic's annual college football "Freaks List" for his abilities shown on the gridiron, in the weight room and in his other sports.

Ogbonnia has officially made his final appearance in blue and gold, though, so next time he takes the field will be for any pre-draft senior showcases or the NFL Scouting Combine, should he get invites.

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