The Utah Utes are officially losing a key piece of their Pac-12 championship-winning defense.

Nephi Sewell is headed to the NFL. The junior linebacker announced Saturday that he will declare for the NFL Draft, foregoing his final year of eligibility. He will still play in the team’s Rose Bowl game against Ohio State.

“I am so grateful for the terrific people who have helped me along this path,” he said. “From my start at Nevada through the past 3 seasons in Utah, there are so many people to recognize. … I am ready to honor the Sewell name and make you all proud.”

Though not completely a shock, it’s still a key departure for the Utes in their front seven.

The safety-turned linebacker originally walked on at Utah after 2 years with the Nevada program. Since, he has turned himself into one of the better players in the league at his position. He was an AP all-conference first-team selection this year, finishing 2nd on the team with 81 total tackles (7.5 TFLs). For his Utah career, he started 17 of his 20 appearances in a Ute uniform and recorded 135 tackles and 13 TFLs.