Iowa junior defensive end Anthony Nelson announced Monday he will forgo his remaining eligibility and declare for the NFL Draft.
Nelson joins tight end Noah Fant and safety Amani Hooker as early entires for the Hawkeyes (9-4) in this year’s NFL Draft, which is in April. Hooker declared on Saturday, while Fant announced his choice in early December and elected not to play in the Outback Bowl, a 27-22 Iowa win over No. 18 Mississippi State. Tight end T.J. Hockenson, another early-entry candidate, has not announced his decision.
Nelson, a 6-7, 271-pound fourth-year junior, piled up 23.0 sacks and 31.0 tackles for loss in three seasons. The Waukee native had 2.5 sacks in his first game as a Hawkeye (vs. Miami (Ohio) in 2016).
“As a kid, I always dreamed of one day being a Hawkeye and to be able to live out this dream has been one of the best experiences of my life,” Nelson said in a statement he posted on social media. “I am excited to now have the opportunity to pursue another of my dreams and cannot wait to see what the future holds.”
Nelson kept the NFL talk simple before the Outback Bowl, saying he would sit on it and decide in a few weeks. The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the draft is Jan. 14, but this is a decision where you jump out of the plane and pull the cord.
Iowa’s early entries submitted their names to the NFL draft advisory board and came back with first- or second-round evaluations.