Perhaps the most overlooked Nittany Lion this season is hoping to get noticed in the 2019 NFL draft.
In a curious move, Penn State defensive tackle Kevin Givens decided to skip his senior season and declare early on Wednesday night.
“This community of people is something really special,” Givens wrote in statement. “I grew as a football player, but more importantly, this place helps you grow as a person. It was and is an honor to play at Penn State. ... Although I’m moving on, a piece of my soul will always live in State College.”
By 7 p.m. ET, Givens was the fourth Nittany Lion to choose the NFL over staying in Happy Valley, joining defensive end Shareef Miller, guard Connor McGovern and tackle Ryan Bates. Miller was fully expected to leave, as was McGovern. Bates’ decision caught some off-guard — and so did Givens’.
The redshirt junior is listed as the No. 336 overall prospect in the 2019 draft, per Drafttek.com. For reference, Miller — a fellow member of the “Wild Dogs” — was No. 107 as of Wednesday night.
Now, Givens has the tools to not only get selected in April, but also succeed on Sundays. A 16-game starter the last two years, the Altoona native fought through double teams in 2018 and logged 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Four of those sacks came in Penn State’s final two regular-season games against Rutgers and Maryland. His constant activity on the inside also opened things up for fellow defensive tackle Robert Windsor, who unexpectedly recorded 7.5 sacks this year.
But without much buzz surrounding him, Givens’ announcement was frankly a surprise. In his place, the Nittany Lions will count on redshirt sophomore Antonio Shelton, true freshman PJ Mustipher and redshirt freshman Fred Hansard to step up.
Penn State head coach James Franklin said in a statement that Givens’ “versatility was an asset for our team, and we wish him nothing but success at the next level.” What’s perhaps more telling about the former three-star prospect, though, was what Franklin said on Nov. 13.
“The guy that’s not getting a whole lot of love is Kevin Givens,” Franklin said at the time. “Kevin Givens, for us, is killing it. He’s doing his job consistently. And sometimes when you do that, other guys shine. But as a coaching staff and as a team, we know the value that Kevin’s bringing.”
Givens is banking on the NFL seeing that, too.