Bulldogs Blog

Butkus winner Roquan Smith announces he is declaring for NFL draft

Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith celebrates with his team after the SEC Championship.
Georgia inside linebacker Roquan Smith celebrates with his team after the SEC Championship. The Telegraph

Roquan Smith announced Monday that he is bypassing his final year of collegiate eligibility for the NFL draft.

Smith became Georgia's best overall player during the 2017 season, which ended in the College Football Playoff National Championship against Alabama. Many NFL draft analysts have Smith pegged as a potential first-round draft selection, which weighed heavily into Smith's decision process.

"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," Smith said in a statement. "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."

Smith put in a season to remember for the Bulldogs. He totaled team highs with 137 tackles and 6.5 sacks. He won the Dick Butkus Award for being the nation's best linebacker. He was a finalist for both the Bronko Nagurksi Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award, which go to the best overall defensive player in the country.

Smith was also named the SEC Championship MVP after a performance that saw him come up with two fumble recoveries and a sack in a 28-7 win over Auburn. Smith also received the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP award after a thrilling 54-48 double overtime win over Oklahoma.

“Words cannot describe how much Roquan has meant to our program," Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. "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."

Smith, a Montezuma native who starred in high school at Macon County, finished his third season at Georgia after almost electing not to come to Athens. On National Signing Day in 2015, Smith was torn on his final choice and picked UCLA at his recruiting ceremony. Shortly after the decision, the previous Georgia coaching staff contacted Smith about the fact that linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich, who recruited Smith and developed a close relationship with him, was leaving to take a job with the Atlanta Falcons.

That led Smith to reconsider his decision as he did not fax in a signed national letter-of-intent. In the end, Smith chose Georgia and enrolled with the university when it was time for football players to report.

Smith was a rotational player as a freshman and played behind 2015 team MVP Jake Ganus. Earning a starting role as a sophomore, Smith led Georgia in tackles with 95.