Four Auburn juniors to leave early and enter NFL draft

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Four Auburn juniors to leave early and enter NFL draft

Kerryon Johnson, the SEC offensive player of the year, was one of four Auburn players to announce they were leaving school early for the NFL draft this week. Photo: Todd Van Emst/Auburn Athletics

Jan. 3, 2018

By Greg Ostendorf

AUBURN, Ala. – The number of Auburn players in the NFL will continue to grow next season. In addition to the departed seniors, four underclassmen have announced their intentions to leave school early and enter the NFL draft over the last two days.

Junior running back Kerryon Johnson was the first to declare, making his announcement Tuesday night. The SEC offensive player of the year led the conference 1,391 rushing yards and 20 total touchdowns. His 17 touchdowns in conference play were three more than any other SEC player, and his 15 rushing touchdowns in that span tied Auburn’s all-time record.

“There aren’t enough words to express how grateful I am of the opportunity Auburn University has given me,” Johnson said. “This is truly an amazing school with an amazing fan base.”

“I would like to thank K.J. for all he has done for our program over the last three years,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Kerryon has made this team better both on and off the field with his great character, competitiveness and leadership. He will be very successful at the next level and more importantly in life. We wish K.J. nothing but the best.”

On Wednesday, All-SEC defenders Carlton Davis and Jeff Holland also announced their decisions to leave school early and pursue their dreams at the next level.

Davis did not play in the bowl game due to an illness, but the junior cornerback finished with 36 tackles, one interception, one fumble forced, one fumble recovery and a team-high 11 passes broken up this past season. For his career, he had 29 passes broken up and four interceptions in three seasons.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to put on the orange and blue and represent all of the great players that came before me and those that will share that honor after me,” Davis said. “I look forward to seeing you all soon as I plan to finish pursuing that valuable Auburn degree.”

“Carlton has been a starter at Auburn from day one, using his talents and hard work to earn All-America honors,” Malzahn said. “He has been a model of consistency and played an important role in the success of our defense. I appreciate Carlton and wish him all the best.”

Holland enjoyed a breakout season in 2017, replacing Carl Lawson at the Buck position. The junior, who became better known as “Sensei Mud,” led Auburn with 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He also had 45 tackles, 22 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles on his way to earning first-team All-SEC honors from the coaches and the Associated Press.

“I want to thank my teammates, my coaches, the entire Auburn athletic department and the Auburn fans for the tremendous support over the last three years,” Holland said.

“Jeff Holland had an outstanding junior year and was one of our most improved players,” Malzahn said. “Jeff’s love and passion for the game of football is contagious and it will carry over to the next level. I appreciate his time at Auburn and wish him the best.”

Lastly, running back Kamryn Pettway also opted to leave school early for the NFL. Pettway rushed for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago, but he struggled with injuries this past season as he finished with 305 yards and six touchdowns in just five games.

“I appreciate Kam Pettway’s time at Auburn,” Malzahn said. “When healthy, he was a dominant running back. We’ll be rooting for him moving forward and wish him nothing but the best.”

Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for Follow him on Twitter:

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