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Up for No. 1, Tunsil declares for draft

Minutes after Ole Miss’ victory over Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on Friday, the highest-rated draft-eligible prospect in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome said he’d talk to his family and make the best decision as it pertained to his future.

Laremy Tunsil could hardly continue talking with a straight face.

Tunsil officially ended the speculation Monday afternoon when he announced he would forgo his final season at Ole Miss and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. The announcement, which was made through the school, came just hours after teammate Laquon Treadwell made the same decision.

“After weighing the decision with my family, I will forgo my senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft,” Tunsil said in a statement. “It’s been a lifelong dream to play in the NFL, and I’m excited about the challenge in front of me. I will always cherish my time at Ole Miss and the relationships with my teammates, coaches and staff. Those are my brothers, and I will always be a Rebel. I’m proud of what my class accomplished, and I know even bigger things are ahead for this program.”

Tunsil is at the top of various mock drafts and could be the first Ole Miss player to go No. 1 overall since Eli Manning in 2004. Tunsil is projected to be the first player selected by the Tennessee Titans by nfldraftscout.com and is ranked as the top overall draft prospect by New Orleans-based NFL scout Mike Detillier.

“Few players have brought more joy to my life than Laremy Tunsil, and I’m so proud to see him take this next step in his life,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave us three years ago, and I look forward to seeing him walk across the stage at this year’s NFL Draft. With his spirit, hard work and determination, he has a bright future ahead of him.”

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior offensive tackle has spent the last three seasons protecting the blind side of Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly, allowing just two sacks in 29 career games. Tunsil, a two-time All-American and three time All-SEC selection, played the final six games this season after serving a seven-game suspension handed down by the NCAA for receiving impermissible benefits.

Last hurrah
His final collegiate play was a 2-yard touchdown run on a throwback pass on the final play of the first half of the 48-20 win over the Cowboys.

Tunsil missed parts of games in 2013 and 2014 with knee and shoulder injuries before breaking his leg in the 2014 Peach Bowl against TCU. A heralded member of the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class, the Lake City, Florida, native started 26 games in his career.

He’s one of three members of the Rebels’ 2013 recruiting class to announce their intentions to leave early, joining Treadwell and defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.