KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Offensive tackle Antonio Richardson will declare for the NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility at the University of Tennessee.
"We appreciate Antonio's efforts and contributions to the University of Tennessee Football," said head coach Butch Jones. "He will always be a Vol For Life and we wish him all the best as he looks to further his career in the National Football League."
The Nashville native was an All-SEC second-team selection by the Associated Press in 2012. In 2013, he was an SEC preseason first-team honoree. He was also named to the watch lists for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies.
"After praying and talking it over with my family and coaches, I believe that now is the right time to make a statement about my future," said Richardson. "I have truly loved every moment of being a Tennessee Volunteer and will always be a Vol For Life. As much as I have enjoyed my time at Tennessee, I have long dreamed of playing in the NFL and taking care of my family. After careful consideration, I have decided to forego my senior year and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
"I am grateful to all of my Tennessee coaches and everyone in the football program who made my life easier, from trainers to tutors to our fans, who are the best in the country. I am ready for the next level and look forward to what I know will be an exciting challenge."
In his three years on Rocky Top, Richardson played in 36 games, starting the final 24 over the last two seasons at left tackle. This past season, Richardson was part of an offensive line that aided the Vols gaining 2,261 rushing yards, the most by the team since 2004.
In 2012, Richardson helped the offense to 475.9 yards per game (20th in NCAA) and 315.6 yards of passing offense (15th in NCAA).
With Richardson manning left tackle, the Vols allowed just 23 sacks over the last two years, including just eight in 2012, the fourth fewest in the NCAA at 0.67 per game. Tennessee had five games of more than 500 yards of total offense in 2012.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)