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WATCH: LB Jaylan Ford says goodbye to Texas, declares for the 2024 NFL Draft

The Longhorns’ leading tackler for two consecutive years is heading to the NFL.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Texas Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

After two all-conference seasons with the Texas Longhorns, linebacker Jaylan Ford has decided to forego his extra year of eligibility and declare for the 2024 NFL Draft with a heartfelt goodbye message to Longhorn Nation.

“Dear Texas, I hoped by the time this day would come that my legacy here would be as good as some of the greats that came before me. I never knew how fast this day would come, but they say all good things must come to an end and I gave it my all to this school and to make sure I left Texas football better than when it was when it found me,” said Ford.

Ford, who has played four seasons for Texas — including the 2020 season that granted him the option at an extra year of eligibility — followed up a breakout year in 2022 with more of the same in 2023, earning first-team all-Big 12 honors in both seasons. In his third and fourth years, Ford combined for 220 tackles, leading the team both years, including 27.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.

Perhaps more impressive was his ability to take the ball away from opponents, intercepting six passes and forcing a fumble in his two seasons as a full-time starter.

A former three-star recruit and a late flip in the 2020 recruiting class out of Frisco, he proved to be a massive evaluation win and a great parting gift from the previous coaching staff as a late flip from Utah. Ford saw his production and play elevate under Jeff Choate, developing into one of the best linebackers in the conference and an NFL Draft pick.

In his stead, Texas will need to find consistent answers at the linebacker spot under new position coach Johnny Nansen. Luckily for the Longhorns and their fans, there is a ton of talent in the room, although not all of it is tested. Obviously, the first name off of the page is Anthnoy Hill Jr., who saw significant playing time this year, first as a situational backer and then later as a full-time linebacker, alongside senior David Gbenda, who could choose to use his COVID season of eligibility to remain at Texas. Behind them, the Longhorns will have to look to the group of Morice Blackwell, S’Maje Burrell, and Liona Lefau to fill the sizeable hole in the defense left by Ford’s departure.