Football: Rashawn Slater opts out of 2020 season, declares for 2021 NFL Draft

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Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Rashawn Slater (70) prepares for the snap at the line of scrimmage. Slater became the first Northwestern player to opt out of the 2020 season.

Drew Schott, Reporter

Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater is opting out of the 2020 season and will declare for the 2021 NFL draft.

In light of the Big Ten postponing its football season to the spring, Slater chose to forgo his senior season after discussing the matter with coach Pat Fitzgerald, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports.

Slater officially announced his decision Thursday afternoon on social media and thanked his coaches and teammates.

“I’m so glad I found my home at Northwestern and will always cherish my time here and the relationships I’ve been blessed to be part of that I know will carry on,” Slater said. “My experience was everything I dreamed of and more. I’m a Wildcat for life.”

After starting 37 games for the Wildcats at both left and right tackle, Slater leaves Evanston as one of the best offensive lineman in program history. The Sugar Land, Texas native earned a consensus All-Big Ten honorable mention in 2019 after giving up zero sacks and only one quarterback hit. During his sophomore campaign, Slater — who appeared in 14 games — was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team by the conference’s coaches. In 2017, Slater was named the top freshman offensive lineman by Pro Football Focus and earned a spot on the Big Ten Network’s Freshman All-Big Ten Team.

Heading into the 2020 season, Slater was lauded as one of the top offensive tackles in the country. He was named to the Outland Trophy watch list — an award given to the country’s top interior lineman — and received Preseason All-America recognition by Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. Additionally, Pro Football Focus graded Slater as the Big Ten’s third-best returning player and the second-best Power 5 offensive tackle in the 2021 Draft class.

Slater is the first NU player to opt out of the 2020 season. With his decision, the offensive tackle joins nearly 80 players in foregoing the upcoming season such as Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Michigan offensive lineman Jalen Mayfield.

According to Tom VanHaaren of ESPN, Fitzgerald expressed high praise of Slater and his career with the Cats.

“Rashawn earned a starting spot almost immediately and never gave it up, helping pave the way to two bowl championships and a Big Ten West Division title,” Fitzgerald said. “He has made the entire Northwestern community proud not only on gamedays, but in the classroom as an Academic All-Big Ten honoree, and we can’t wait to see what his future holds on Sundays!”

As one of the top offensive tackles in the upcoming draft, Slater has the chance to become NU’s first opening round draft pick since defensive lineman Luis Castillo in 2005. According to a July 21 mock draft from 24/7 Sports, Slater is projected to go 16th overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

To fill the gap left by Slater’s departure, the Cats will look to senior Gunnar Vogel, junior Ethan Wiederkehr, and sophomore Payne He’Bert for production at offensive tackle.

A two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Slater will graduate in December with a major in communication studies and a minor in business institutions.

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Twitter: @dschott328

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