As the NFL Draft nears, reporters, scouts and prospects alike have been busy in anticipation of the final two-month stretch. The same is true for former Texas linebacker and NFL-hopeful Malik Jefferson.
Currently pegged as a second or third-round pick by most experts, Jefferson made an appearance on the ‘On Second Thought’ podcast, hosted by Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden of the Austin American-Statesman, to share his thoughts on leaving Texas early, transitioning to the professional level and his injury status.
When asked if he had any doubts about forgoing his senior year at Texas, Jefferson admitted that the decision was more trying than many may have assumed.
“It was very hard,” Jefferson said on the podcast. “I had the opportunity to come back, be a leader of the team and help make the program great again. But I feel like we go to college to maximize our pro potential.”
Jefferson revealed that he actually received a “go-back-to-school” evaluation from a panel of NFL scouts. But ultimately, he viewed it as a risk-reward situation.
“It’s a risk,” Jefferson said. “But at the end of the day we go to school to go pro. And I have to do what’s best to support my family.”
Just three years ago, the highly-sought-after Mesquite Poteet High School product signed with the Longhorns to become the prized blue-chip recruit of the Charlie Strong era. Now he’s preparing for the NFL Combine and hopefully a nice landing on draft day.
Shooting for a high draft pick isn’t a sure thing, but returning for another year of college football also carries the potential for injury. And one might wonder if Jefferson’s past health issues — which include a concussion and a toe sprain that sidelined him for the Texas Bowl — were weighing on his mind when he declared early.
Reasons for his early departure aside, the underwhelming panel evaluation makes it even more imperative that Jefferson have a strong showing at the Combine. The difference between a 4.5 and 4.6-4.7 40-yard dash time could mean a late first-round pick instead of a third to fourth-round selection.
In regard to how his lingering toe sprain may affect his performance, Jefferson doesn’t see much cause for concern.
“It’s 95-100 percent healthy,” Jefferson said. “I expect to blow that track up. There won’t be any problem at all. I feel very confident.”