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Fant leaves Hawkeyes for NFL draft | Iowa Hawkeyes football, basketball, wrestling and more sports

Noah Fant has run his last route and delivered his final block in an Iowa football uniform.

The junior tight end announced Friday plans to forego his remaining eligibility and declared himself eligible for the 2019 NFL Draft.

The record-setting tight end, named Wednesday by Big Ten coaches as a first-team all-conference selection, will leave the program immediately and will not participate in Iowa’s upcoming bowl game.

“After multiple discussions with my family, coaches and a lot of prayer, I have decided to forego the remainder of my eligibility and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft,” Fant wrote in an Instagram message he posted Friday morning.

The decision came after Fant met with coach Kirk Ferentz on Wednesday to discuss and share his future plans.

While several Hawkeyes have left school early for the draft, Fant is the first Hawkeye player to join a recent national trend and leave his team prior to a bowl game.

Coach Kirk Ferentz touched on that in a statement regarding Fant’s decision.

“We are disappointed Noah will not be finishing the season with his teammates,” Ferentz said. “He is a tremendous athlete, and we wish him the best as he pursues his goal of playing in the NFL.”

Iowa’s career leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end with 19, Fant is regarded among the top tight end prospects in this year’s draft class.

His 42-inch vertical jump and his Iowa record in the three-cone drill illustrate the athletic ability that led draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. to rate the Omaha native as the number one draft-eligible tight end prospect at the collegiate level.

One of eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award presented to college football’s top tight end, the 6-foot-5, 241-pound Fant leads Iowa this season with seven touchdown receptions.

He is third on the team with 39 catches for the year covering 519 yards.

Fant shared the tight end spotlight on Iowa’s team this season with sophomore T.J. Hockenson, named one of three finalists for the Mackey Award and chosen as a first-team all-Big Ten player by a league media panel.

While the pair insisted they worked well together, Fant’s junior season included some drama off the field.

Five games into the season, family members tweeted displeasure about how Fant was being utilized in the Hawkeye offense.

Fant dealt with it, saying he would always support his family but quickly adding that he trusted his coaches to make the right decisions.

In announcing his decision, Fant thanked Iowa fans for showing him “unending love and support,” and he thanked Hawkeye football and academic staff members.

“The lessons you’ve helped me learn will carry with me throughout life, helping me achieve success no matter what I’m doing,” Fant wrote. “Thank you coach Ferentz and coach (Chris) Doyle for the opportunity and honor to represent the black and gold, for helping me grow physically and mentally more than I thought possible.”

Fant thanked his position coaches, LeVar Woods and Brian Ferentz, before concluding that he made a decision he believes is the best for him at this point in time.

“Since the very first time I put on a pair of football pads as a child, it has been my dream to play in the NFL,” Fant said. “I am very excited for what the future holds and extremely humbled by the amazing opportunity in front of me. I will always bleed the black and gold and forever be a Hawkeye.”

Fant concludes his college career with 1,083 receiving yards, and beyond being an Iowa record, his 19 touchdown receptions are the third-most ever by a Big Ten tight end.

Hockenson, draft eligible as a third-year sophomore, also has a decision to make.

He indicated last week he plans to see what type of response he gets from the NFL Draft Advisory Board before reaching any conclusion. Hockenson, a 6-5, 250-pound Chariton, Iowa, native, leads Iowa with 46 receptions and 717 receiving yards this season.

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