The Texas Longhorns will be without another key contributor on Saturday in Manhattan against the Kansas State Wildcats — and for the remainder of the decision — as junior safety Caden Sterns declared for the 2021 NFL Draft and opted out of the remainder of the season, the school announced on Monday.
“Longhorn Nation, thank you for the unending support for the last three years both on and off the field, especially in 2020, which has been a difficult and trying time for us all,” Sterns said in a statement released by the school. “After much thought and prayer, I’ve arrived at the decision that it is time for me to follow my lifelong dream and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. With that, I’ll be forgoing the remainder of my eligibility, but I’ll always look back at my time in Austin as some of the best years of my life, especially with my teammates who have become my brothers. I want to thank Coach Herman, Coach Ash and all of my coaches for guiding me in taking my game to the next level and all they’ve done for me throughout my career at UT. Above all, I want to thank my family for all of their support as I start this next chapter. I couldn’t be more excited for what the future holds and will always be a Longhorn at heart. Hook ‘em!”
The 6’1, 207-pounder becomes the second Texas player to leave the program early in the last two days. On Sunday, redshirt junior left tackle Sam Cosmi opted out and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Entering the season, Sterns was considered a potential first-round pick, but that calculation was based on the assumption that the Cibolo Steele would build on the promise that he showed as a freshman.
It never happened.
In 2018, Sterns was named the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and first-team All-Big 12 after leading the team and tying the school freshman record with four interceptions. A starter in all 13 games, Sterns recorded 62 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack, and four pass breakups.
Then injuries helped derail the sophomore season for Sterns — he suffered a high ankle sprain in preseason camp and then a knee injury that cost him four games. When Sterns was available, he wasn’t as impactful, failing to record an interception.
Similarly, a turf toe injury this year cost him the game against Baylor. And once again, Sterns wasn’t been able to replicate his freshman season. He does have one interception, 1.5 tackles for loss, and three pass breakups, but he didn’t put anything on film to suggest that he’d even go early on Day Two if he declares for the NFL Draft.
Technically, redshirt junior Montrell Estell is listed as the backup to Sterns on the depth chart, but junior BJ Foster has been the third safety in the rotation this season.