Saturday, December 07, 2013

UConn's Yawin Smallwood entering NFL draft

In the midst of a euphoric celebration UConn jiunior linebacker Yawin Smallwood stepped to the forefront with an announcement that didn't surprise any of his teammates.

The redshirt junior, who is being touted as a second or third-round pick in the NFL, made it official when he declared for the draft. Smallwood announced his intentions to his team in the locker room after the 45-10 win over Memphis.

"The NFL is just a dream. I have been playing this game since I was 7 years old and one thing was on my mind and that to get to the next level," Smallwood said. "I am just happy and excited that I was able to come to the University of Connecticut, these coaches worked their tail off to make sure I developed into a good player."

Smallwood, who said he came to his decision last night, felt it was important that his teammates heard the news from him rather than from a media report.

"I just told my teammates at the end of the game," said Smallwood, who finished with a team-high 118 tackles as a junior. "It was something that I wanted to do, those aren’t just my teammates, they are my brothers and we go through everything together."

Four UConn defensive players went in the third or fourth round in the 2013 NFL Draft including standout rookies Dwayne Gratz of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Sio Moore of the Oakland Raiders. He's been in contact with them during the season.

"I’ve talked to them about the next level but not about leaving," Smallwood said. "I’ve had a few conversations here or there but it ultimately was my decision. I felt it was best for me to go ahead and enter. I feel like I am ready. I felt it was the right time. It is always good when you win.

"It is real. I am happy, it is a dream come true but this is when the work starts."

His teammates were hardly surprised at the classy manner in which he informed the team of his decision.

"I am proud of him," UConn junior receiver Geremy Davis said. "He had a great career here since he stepped in freshman he was always a hard worker and when he got his opportunity to play against the big boys so he set himself up.

"Yawin always has been a humble guy and the way he did, he brought the coach and team. He didn’t go home and we had to find out in the paper, he brought the team out with his brothers and he announced it right there."

Davis could also declare for the draft but he said "I haven’t thought about leaving."



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