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Texas Jack Joseph Ossai declares for the 2021 NFL Draft

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Ossai built on his impressive Alamo Bowl performance and finished tied for second nationally in tackles for loss.

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Texas Longhorns junior Jack Joseph Ossai announced that he’ll forgo the bowl game and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, where he has a chance to go in the first or second round.

“2020 has been a trying year for everyone,” Ossai said in a statement released by the school. “As a team we have endured many challenges both on and off the field, but I couldn’t be prouder to be a Texas Longhorn. Growing up in Texas, football is everything, and there is no bigger stage to play the game I love than here in Austin. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to wear the Burnt Orange for the last three years now and wouldn’t trade that time for anything in the world. Now that our regular season has ended, I have made the tough decision to go ahead and begin to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft. As a kid, I dreamt of playing at Texas and going on to play in the NFL. I feel the time is now right, and even though it is bittersweet I am excited to face this new challenge. First and foremost, I want to thank God for all the gifts and opportunities he has blessed me with. I also want to thank my family for always supporting me, my teammates for always having my back, my coaches for helping me grow as both a football player and a man, and the Longhorn faithful for being the best fans on the planet. I may have worn the Burnt Orange on the football field for the last time, but I will always bleed orange. Hook ‘em!”

The 6’4, 253-pounder was an important National Signing Day addition for the Longhorns over the Aggies in the 2018 class and started two games as a freshman, including the Sugar Bowl against Georgia, recording 20 tackles with a sack and a forced fumble.

Playing through a shoulder injury as a sophomore, Ossai flashed his full potential in the Alamo Bowl against No. 11 Utah, earning Defensive MVP honors with nine tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks, the most by a Texas player in a bowl game since Alex Okafor had 4.5 sacks in the 2012 Alamo Bowl against Oregon State. Ossai finished the season with 90 tackles, first on the team, along with 13.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions, one pass break up, one forced fumble, and one blocked kick.

Thanks to Ossai’s shoulder injury and limited depth at linebacker, the Conroe Oak Ridge product primarily played off the ball until the bowl game under interim defensive coordinator Craig Naivar. With the arrival of Chris Ash and his four-down scheme, Ossai looked poised for the type of season playing full time on the edge that could vault him into the top end of the draft.

And that’s exactly what happened, as Ossai established himself as one of the highest-effort players in the country and boasted the production to back it up. His single best individual performance came in the upset against then-No. 6 Oklahoma State — 12 tackles, six tackles for loss, and three sacks to help the Longhorns earn their first road win over a top-10 team since 2010. His sack of Cowboys quarterback Spencer Sanders sealed the victory.

Ossai finished the season with 55 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss — the most in the Big 12 and second-most nationally — five sacks, three forced fumbles, one recovery, two pass breakups, and two quarterback hurries. A team captain for the 2020 season, Ossai is also a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, awarded annually to the top defensive player in the country.

The big night on a big stage for Ossai against Oklahoma State helped him rise up draft boards and he’s not considered one of the top edge prospects. As long as Ossai tests well, his high character will help him become one of the highest-drafted players from the Texas program in recent years.