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BREAKING: Rashawn Slater opts out of 2021 spring college football season, declares for NFL Draft

Northwestern will have to play without its best offensive weapon this season.

Northwestern’s star offensive lineman Rashawn Slater will forgo his senior season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports reported.

As one of the top offensive lineman in the nation, Slater is Northwestern’s best NFL prospect and a consensus top-40 pick. Given the recent trends, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Slater goes in the first round either, which would make him the first Wildcat to be selected in the first 32 picks since DT Luis Castillo in 2005.

The decision came after an ongoing conversation with Pat Fitzgerald, Slater told Yahoo Sports in a phone interview.

“I didn’t think a winter or spring season allows for optimal recovery or training to have a great rookie year,” Slater said. “I talked about it with everyone. Everyone at Northwestern has been extremely supportive. They’ve had open and honest conversations with me. I can tell they wanted the best for me.”

He is the first known Northwestern player to opt out of the season.

His absence will be a major blow to Northwestern’s developing offense, as he was one of the only consistent pieces of the unit last season. In 2019, the 6-foot-4, 308-pound left tackle allowed zero sacks, one QB hit and five QB hurries for just six total quarterback pressures in 11 games and was named All-Big Ten honorable mention. He started 37 of 38 games played in his three-year college career.

Expectations were extremely high for Slater heading into this season. He was named Preseason All-American by Phil Steele and Athlon Sports, Preseason First Team All-Big Ten, the highest-graded returning Big Ten offensive tackle, run blocker and No. 2 returning Power Five OT by PFF and earned a spot on the Outland Trophy watch list — an honor given to the best college football interior lineman.

Slater will be a huge loss for Northwestern’s offense and program as a whole if a season is played this spring, however, he hopefully has a long career ahead representing the ‘Cats in the pros.