The season-long speculation about Bryan Bulaga is now a reality.
University of Iowa junior offensive lineman has decided to make himself eligible for the 2010 NFL draft, making his announcement today with a heavy heart.
"After much deliberation and careful consideration, I have decided to forego my fourth year of college eligibility and enter the upcoming NFL draft. This was not an easy decision since my Iowa experience has been very positive and rewarding.
The illness I was faced with at the beginning of the 2009 season made me realize how important football is in my life and how quickly it can be taken away. I want to thank coach Ferentz, coach Morgan and the rest of the Iowa football staff who played a significant role in my development.
I will always be a Hawkeye and will carry that with me proudly wherever my future takes me. Thanks to everyone for the support you’ve always given me."
Bulaga was the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and a first team all-Big Ten selection. He is a projected first-round draft pick in almost every online mock-draft in existence.
Following Bulaga's decision, head coach Kirk Ferentz expressed his thoughts.
"Bryan has been a valued team member, well beyond his outstanding play on the field. I’m very appreciative of his efforts on the team’s behalf. I am confident Bryan will do very well in the years to come and again be a valuable asset to his future team. We wish him the best and continued success."
For the second straight year, a Hawkeye has declared early for the NFL draft. Iowa running back Shonn Greene left Iowa following a record-breaking junior season in 2008. He was selected in the third round draft by the New York Jets.
Bulaga opted to follow Greene's example, rather than former Hawkeye Robert Gallery's example.
As a junior in 2002, Gallery started all 13 games at left tackle and was first team All-Big Ten. He was predicted as a late first round draft pick, yet opted to return for his senior season.
Gallery was a consensus first team All-American in 2003 and was awarded the 2003 Outland Trophy, making him only the third offensive lineman from Iowa to win the award. He was drafted as the second overall pick in the 2004 NFL draft.
If Bulaga would have opted to stay, he could have been Iowa's fourth to win the award. And it would have improved Iowa's chances of a Big Ten title.
Most of the Hawkeye faithful won't fault Bulaga for his decision, but his presence will be missed.