MADISON – College football players continue to make headlines not just for their contributions on the field but also for their decisions to skip their team’s bowl game and begin preparing for the NFL draft.
Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey and LSU’s Leonard Fournette chose to skip their bowl games after the 2016 season.
This season, the list includes Iowa tight end Noah Fant, Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, Houston defensive end Ed Oliver, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams.
UW coach Paul Chryst expects all healthy seniors and any players considering leaving early for the NFL to line up against Miami in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 27 in New York.
That includes fifth-year senior linebacker T.J. Edwards, UW’s leading tackler
Yet Edwards acknowledged he briefly weighed his options before deciding he had to play one more game for UW.
“It is hard,” Edwards said after practice on Monday. “I definitely thought about it. But it is one of those things, especially as a leader, it is important that I play in this game and finish this thing off right.
“Personally, losing to Minnesota, that would be tough knowing it was my last game.”
Edwards recorded a team-high 18 tackles, including 12 solos, but UW suffered a 37-15 loss to the Gophers. Minnesota thus snapped a 14-game losing streak to UW and took back Paul Bunyan’s Axe for the first time since the 2003 season.
“But I understand why guys do it,” Edwards said of players who decided to skip their team’s bowl game. “What if you get hurt? I totally get that. It is a tough decision.”
Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith (2105 Fiesta Bowl) and Michigan tight end Jake Butt (2016 Orange Bowl) suffered serious knee injuries in their final college games, injuries that affected where they ended up in the draft.
Former UW offensive tackle Joe Thomas was a junior when the Badgers faced Auburn in the 2006 Capital One Bowl. Thomas could have turned pro after that season but suffered a torn ACL in the bowl game while getting time at defensive end. He returned for his senior season, garnered All-American honors and was taken No. 3 overall by Cleveland in the 2007 NFL draft.
“It is a scary thing,” Edwards said about the possibility of suffering a serious injury. “You try not to think about it too much. You can’t be out there thinking: I’m going to get hurt.
“You can play timid. If you’re going to commit to it you’ve got to commit.”
From the infirmary
Quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who has missed 3½ games this season because of two concussions, was held out of practice Monday.
Jack Coan, who got his first start at Northwestern, took over for Hornibrook in the second half against Rutgers and started against Penn State and Purdue, worked with the No. 1 offense.