Utah junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson announced his long-expected decision to enter the 2020 NFL draft, without addressing whether he intends to play in the Alamo Bowl vs. Texas.
In a message to Ute fans posted Friday evening, Johnson wrote, “These past three years have been some of the best of my life. This place I call home gave me more than I could have ever imagined, and I am eternally grateful.”
Citing sources, The Athletic reported that Johnson is not expected to play in San Antonio.
The first media availability for Utah players since last week’s loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game is scheduled after Saturday morning’s practice. Senior safety Julian Blackmon, another all-conference pick, has been ruled out of the Alamo Bowl with a knee injury. Texas features a 4,000-yard passer and a 1,000-yard receiver this season.
Of the Utes’ eight All-Pac-12 players (including seven seniors), Johnson is expected to be the highest-draft athlete. Some early projections have him being taken late in the first round.
Johnson will depart Utah with a degree, making him eligible for a likely invitation to the Senior Bowl all-star game, Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala. Six teammates already have been chosen, including five defensive players.
Johnson was a repeat selection to the All-Pac-12 first team, announced this week, and was named to the Walter Camp All-America second team.
With his team trailing 21-13 in the third quarter at Washington in early November, Johnson returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown. The Utes’ 33-28 victory was their toughest test during an eight-game winning streak that enabled them to win another Pac-12 South championship. His 100-yard interception at Stanford in 2018 helped launch Utah toward a 6-1 finish in conference play.
Johnson made one other interception as a junior and his 11 pass breakups rank fourth in the Pac-12. Utah often matched him against the opponent's best receiver, such as Oregon State's Isaiah Hodgins and Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk.
Utah's coaching staff has endorsed Johnson's intentions to turn pro after his junior season, because of what he has done athletically and academically in three years. During an Alamo Bowl news conference Thursday in San Antonio, coach Kyle Whittingham said he anticipated that his healthy players would dress for the Dec. 31 game, but acknowledged this is “a different day and age.”
Whittingham added, “If an athlete is definitely wanting to forego the bowl season, move on, then we’ll support him as well but don’t necessarily agree with it all the time. … I believe more times than not you can help your draft stock by playing in the game, finishing your career.”