Michigan State’s Conklin skipping final season
Published 2:35 pm Thursday, January 7, 2016
EAST LANSING — Michigan State All-America offensive tackle Jack Conklin, who started 38 of 39 career games, will forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 National Football League Draft.
As a three-year starter, Conklin helped the Spartans to a combined record of 36-5, including back-to-back bowl victories over Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl and Baylor in the 2015 Cotton Bowl Classic as well as an appearance in the 2015 College Football Playoff Semifinal against Alabama.
The deadline for underclassmen to declare themselves eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft is Monday, Jan. 18.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Conklin earned All-America honors from Sporting News (first team), USA TODAY (first team), Associated Press (second team), FWAA (second team), Walter Camp Football Foundation (second team), Phil Steele (third team) and SI.com (honorable mention).
A first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media, Conklin was named Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week a team-best four times (Western Michigan, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State) during the regular season. Although he missed two games (Purdue, Rutgers) with a leg injury, Conklin still collected 65.5 knockdowns and graded out a winner in eight of his 10 regular-season games.
“Jack Conklin is a gifted athlete, who embodies all of the qualities of the ideal left tackle,” Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s an intelligent player, who runs extremely well for his size. Jack was an impact player in our starting lineup for the last three years, and his toughness permeated the entire offensive line.
“The pre-draft numbers project Jack as a probable first-round selection, and there’s no doubt that he’ll be an outstanding tackle at the next level. He’s well prepared to transition into the next chapter of his life, and we wish him nothing but the best as he chases his dream of playing in the NFL. He’s not only been a major contributor over the last three seasons, but he’s also been a tremendous ambassador for our football program.”
“The decision to forgo my final year was a very difficult decision,” Conklin said. “I took time to talk to my family and the coaches to find out what the best decision would be for me. Ultimately, my family and I felt it was time to take the next step and start training for the NFL. I’m excited about it.
“I’m going to really miss being at Michigan State and everything about this place. I’ve loved it. Coach D was great — he gave me a chance to play Division I football when no one else believed in me. For him to give me that chance and to now be in this position is unbelievable. It’s a blessing to have been able to work with Coach D, Coach (Mark) Staten and Coach (Jim) Bollman. They really helped mentor me, especially in the ways of becoming a great offensive lineman. I’ll take everything that they’ve taught me and use it at the next level to help me become even a better player.
“My career really comes down to being part of a team and a group of guys that put Michigan State back on the map. When I first got here, the teams in the past started to build a foundation here. While I was here, my teammates and I really have created this sense of championships around Michigan State. When you hear the name Michigan State, you think of Big Ten Championships and now, a team that’s going to be in playoff contention, year in and year out. The great thing about it is this is a legacy now that we’ve created here and will go on for years and years and years and really has a bright future ahead.
“My first goal is to become a first-round draft pick,” Conklin continued. “That’s been my dream since I was a little kid. I feel like I’m in the situation where I have the capability of doing that going into training now. One day I want to be a Pro Bowler; I want to be an All-Pro guy, and those are the types of goals I have set for myself now, but none of that would be capable without the experience I’ve had here at Michigan State and the opportunity I was given.”
The Plainwell, Michigan, native began his junior season by being named the Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week against Western Michigan, and followed that effort with a team-best 9.5 knockdowns in the win over No. 7 Oregon.
After missing two games, Conklin registered a Big Ten Championship level grade for his performance in the win at No. 12 Michigan, which included 7.5 knockdowns, to earn Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week laurels. He picked up the award for the second week in a row with eight knockdowns vs. Indiana.
Following MSU’s 17-14 win at No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 21, Conklin again was named the Spartan Offensive Lineman of the Week as Michigan State rushed for 203 yards against the nation’s third-ranked defense and ended the defending National Champion Buckeyes’ 23-game winning streak. In the regular-season finale at Penn State, Conklin compiled 8.5 knockdowns and the Spartans held the Nittany Lions without a sack for the first time all season.
Conklin saw action in 39 career games, including 38 starts (35 at left tackle, three at right tackle). A three-year starter, Conklin helped the Spartans to two Big Ten Championships (2013, 2015) and two bowl wins (2014 Rose, 2015) during his time in the starting lineup, in addition to a berth in the College Football Playoff this season. With a healthy offensive line, the Spartans averaged 188.3 rushing yards per game against their last three Big Ten opponents, including wins over No. 2 Ohio State, Penn State and No. 4 Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game.
The 2016 NFL Draft will be conducted April 28-30 in Chicago.