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Alontae Taylor officially declares for NFL Draft, will skip bowl game

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

One of Tennessee’s most impactful seniors is officially done with his college career. Alontae Taylor announced that he will declare for the 2022 NFL Draft, and that process will begin immediately.

Taylor also announced that he would not be playing in Tennessee’s bowl game.

Here’s the full text of Taylor’s note.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for blessing me with the gifts and abilities that I have to be where I am today. I have learned a lot in these last four years here at The University of Tennessee, and I couldn’t be more thankful for Coach Pruitt and his staff for believing in me on the field but also for helping me become a better man. Coach Heupel, man, it has only been a few months and the relationship we have built has been incredible. Thank You for trusting in me to lead such an amazing group of men on and off the field. I developed and became the best version of myself while being here at UT, and I will forever be appreciative for everything you and your staff taught me. To my family, thank you for always supporting and believing in me and making me the type of man I am today. For that, I am grateful and will continue to make you proud.

“To Vol Nation, your support has been incredible, and there is truly no fan base in America as passionate as you. Your energy on gameday is unmatched, and I can’t thank you enough.

“To My Brothers, where do I even start? It has been a journey these past four years, and I can honestly say we are a family. Pushing each other every day on and off the field are the type of memories that will last forever — one team, one heartbeat! These moments were never taken for granted, and I couldn’t be more thankful for a group of men like y’all. Through the ups and downs, we grew closer and to the ones who left the love never wavered. You boys will forever be my brothers.

“I have battled through an injury these past two weeks, but I couldn’t let my teammates and coaches down by sitting out. I signed here to Give My All and that I did. This is by far the toughest decision I have ever made. It is with a heavy heart that I announce my decision to forego the bowl game to get healthy. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to hear my name called and play in the NFL. With much consideration, prayer and family discussions, I will be turning my attention to the Senior Bowl and declaring for the 2022 NFL DRAFT!”

It’s difficult to blame Taylor for his decision. With everything to lose in a bowl game, Taylor won’t take any chances here. He’s set to compete in the Senior Bowl in February, and any potential injury could end up costing him valuable reps in from of NFL scouts, coaches and personnel. The NFL Combine looms after that.

He finishes his Tennessee career with 162 tackles, four interceptions, 15 passes defensed and four years worth of starting experience. Not bad for a guy who started his Tennessee career as a receiver. The former four-star athlete now shifts his focus to the NFL Draft, where he sits as the 12th ranked cornerback on Mel Kiper’s board.

Tennessee will be left with Warren Burrell, Kamal Hadden, Brandon Turnage and Kenneth George at cornerback for the bowl matchup, which will be announced on Sunday.