After recording 18 sacks and establishing himself as one of the premier pass rushers in the nation for three years at Penn State, Yetur Gross-Matos has declared for the NFL Draft.
The Chancellor High School graduate announced his decision Tuesday evening as he was also named first-team all-Big Ten Conference for the second straight season.
“There was a lot of discussion with my coaches and my family,” Gross-Matos said. “It was not an easy decision. But I felt it was the right decision.”
Gross-Matos orally committed to Penn State during his junior year at Chancellor and went on to finish his high school career with 37 sacks (18½ as a senior).
The Nittany Lions didn’t redshirt him. He played in every game as a true freshman and finished with 1 ½ sacks.
He blossomed his sophomore season, finishing with eight sacks, 20 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. There was buzz that he could enter the draft as soon as he was eligible at the conclusion of this season.
“The reality is that this is a process that started some time ago,” said his father, Rob Matos. “In terms of taking a look, gathering information, seeing how he developed and getting constant feedback from his position coach and head coach and other sources. It just seemed like a good time. Yetur felt he was ready to make that move and we will support him in that decision.”
Gross-Matos remained steady after his breakthrough second season and has 8½ sacks and 14 tackles for loss this year as a known commodity on the Nittany Lions’ defensive line.
He still has one game remaining as he’s pledged to compete in Penn State’s yet-to-be-determined bowl game. He sat out the final regular season game against Rutgers as he stood on the sideline with his arm in a sling.
He said he’s determined to get ready for the bowl contest for the 10-2 Nittany Lions. It’s been a trend in recent years for some draft hopefuls to forgo their team’s bowl game to avoid injury and prepare for the future.
“I wouldn’t want to quit on [my teammates],” Gross-Matos said. “I started the season with them and I’m going to finish it with them.”
Gross-Matos (6-foot-5, 270 pounds) has the size and athletic ability that NFL executives typically look for in pass rushers. His father said the feedback the family has received is that he’s slated to be picked in the first round and possibly the No. 2 defensive end behind Ohio State star Chase Young.
Penn State’s coaching staff believes he’s prepared and wished him well at the next level.
“Yetur has grown so much as a football player, leader and young man during his time at Penn State,” Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin said in a press release. “He has been a shining example of resiliency for his teammates and our staff for the way he has handled adversity in his life. We couldn’t be more proud of him and appreciate everything he has done for our program.”
The NFL combine will be held in February. The draft will be April 23-25 in Las Vegas.
A CBS Sports mock draft has Gross-Matos being selected No. 28 by the Seattle Seahawks, Sporting News has him No. 25 to the Dallas Cowboys and USA Today has him going 21st overall to the Cowboys.
“Everything that we’re hearing is first round or mid-first round and that’s without the benefit of a combine or interviews,” Rob Matos said. “He could potentially be one of the top 15, 20 picks.”
Gross-Matos was a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award which is presented to the nation’s top defender. He was a Sporting News midseason All-American.
His father said the criminology major still plans to graduate in the near future.
“He’ll continue to work on that,” Rob Matos said. “We’ll meet with the academic folks. … We’ll continue to chip away and complete that degree. He promised his mom and I and the coaches that he would do that. He’s not that far off.”