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Joe Milton says goodbye to Tennessee football

No. 7 signs off.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Angelina Alcantar/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Wednesday, the Joe Milton era of Tennessee football officially came to a close. The senior quarterback opted out of the Citrus Bowl, handing the keys to the car over to true freshman Nico Iamaleava, who will make his first start against Iowa on Monday.

Milton, who is finishing his third season with Tennessee, signed off with the following Instagram post.

“First, I want to thank GOD for blessing me with the talent and ability to play this game we love so much.

“Throughout my years here at Tennessee, I’ve learned a lot. Becoming a man was the best part. Every day came down to giving My All for Tennessee. Grinding day-in, day-out with my brothers was odee litttt! I love y’all boys. Mane I’ll always have y’all boys back no matter what, and I look forward to supporting y’all all week here in Orlando.

“To all my coaches, thanks for helping me become a better player every day, and to Coach Heup, Coach Halzle and Coach Mitch, thank you for helping me become an even better man. RESPECT.

“Playing inside Club Neyland was amazing – the energy, the noise and especially Running Through the “T”. I’m going to miss it all. Playing in the NFL has always been my dream since I was 4 years old. Now it’s time to turn those dreams into reality as I begin preparing for the 2024 NFL Draft.

“Thanks Vol Nation for everything.

“JoJo out.”

The big armed Milton will now move on to focus his efforts on the Senior Bowl, where he’ll prepare for the 2024 NFL Draft. It didn’t all come together like everyone hoped for Milton in 2023, but his physical traits should generate some interest as a potential day three project.

For now though, as Milton weighed his options, he’s been with the team and doing what he can to help Iamaleava prepare for his first start.

“Yeah, Joe has been with us throughout bowl preparation, just as he was going through his process of how he was going to handle things at the end,” Josh Heupel said. “Guys are excited to get an opportunity to play with Nico.

“They appreciate Joe, obviously, for everything that he’s done. He’s been a great teammate to everybody inside of that locker room. He’s been a great teammate to Nico, as well. He’s been a part of the preparation. He’ll be with us all week long and continue to help us in that way.”

Iamaleava’s first start comes against Iowa in the Citrus Bowl, which is set for Monday at 1 p.m. ET on ABC.