AUSTIN (KXAN) — Longhorns junior Joseph Ossai is opting out of the 2020 bowl game and forgoing his senior season to focus on his NFL Draft prospects, UT Athletics announced Monday.

Ossai leads the Longhorns in sacks and is second in the nation in tackles for loss with 16 this season. Playing from the JACK position as a pass rusher, Ossai’s performance on the field made an impression on NFL scouts. The Athletic’s draft expert Dane Brugler predicted Ossai would go in the first round of the 2021 draft.

In 2020, Ossai recorded 55 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two pass breakups. Ossai was named a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik award, given to the best defensive player in college football. 

The Texas team captain said in a statement that the timing was right to end his college career after the 2020 regular season.

“2020 has been a trying year for everyone. 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!”

Joseph Ossai statement

Ossai becomes the fifth Longhorns team captain to opt out before the end of the 2020 season. Sam Cosmi, Caden Sterns, Chris Brown and Ta’Quon Graham are all forgoing remaining eligibility to focus on their professional football futures.

Offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter is recovering from a season-ending ankle injury, suffered against Kansas State. Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the only healthy captain still able to play with the 2020 team.

The Longhorns are waiting for a bowl invitation, which will be announced after the conference championships this weekend, to close out the 2020 season.