Khyiris Tonga becomes third BYU Cougar to declare for the NFL draft

Nose tackle returned for 2020 to help his team and bolster his NFL stock. He says he’s ready now.

BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga (95) gets up after sacking Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, Pool)

It’s been a long time coming, but the time has finally arrived — Khyiris Tonga declared for the NFL draft.

The defensive tackle is the latest Cougar to make the move to the next level, as he announced Thursday afternoon via social media. Offensive lineman Brady Christensen and wide receiver Dax Milne both opted out of coming back for their senior season for a chance at the NFL draft.

“The last four years of my life at BYU have been a blessing,” Tonga said in a statement online. “First and foremost, thank you God for everything! I wanted to thank my teammates, coach [Kalani] Sitake, the entire coaching staff, and the amazing Cougar fans.”

Because the NCAA had ultimately ruled the fall season would serve as a freebie due to the ongoing pandemic, Tonga could have chosen to come back and could have replayed his senior season. Ultimately, he chose not to.

As a 6-foot-4, 321-pound nose tackle, Tonga set the tone for the defensive line that held just about every opponent below their scoring average. During the 2020 season, Tonga recorded a total of 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, three quarterback hurries and five pass breakups.

Tonga’s decision to declare for the draft comes as no surprise as the Cougar almost made that same decision a year ago, but ultimately decided to come back one more year to improve his stock. The decision paid off as BYU was the first program in the West to play a football season, which led to more national coverage.

“I will forever appreciate you,” Tonga said. “With that being said I am really excited to begin the next chapter of my life, as I begin preparing for the NFL Draft! Thanks for the memories!”