Barnett Makes “Family Decision” by Declaring for NFL Draft

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

    Derek Barnett is Tennessee’s all-time sack leader in just three seasons on Rocky Top, and now his next challenge awaits in the NFL.

    The Nashville native’s 33 career sacks place him at the top in UT history. But Barnett’s favorite memories have to do with team success, rather than his own achievements.

    “I think all the wins are my favorite moments,” Barnett said.

    But next to that, breaking Reggie White’s sack record was a pretty big deal too.

    “I think this weekend was a moment I’ll never forget because I was back home in my hometown and I broke the record there and got to celebrate with my teammates – just the way they all swarmed me, it was a great feeling. It was a feeling I’ll never forget the rest of my life”

    Barnett says that he had a good idea he’d declare for the NFL draft towards the end of the season. Despite adversity late in the year, including a loss to Vanderbilt, Barnett added that Tennessee will continue its momentum against Nebraska into 2017.

    “I didn’t want to say anything during the season while we were still having game just because I wanted our focus to be on winning, and not me,” Barnett said. “I didn’t want to be a distraction to the team or cause any issues.”

    At the end of the day, Derek says that the decision came down to family.

    “The deciding factor for me was – it was a family decision – we just thought it was the best thing to do right now,” Barnett said. “It was a hard decision to make, but we thought it was the right one. I think we left in the program in a great place. Obviously the year we finished off with a win, but the season didn’t go the way we wanted to. But I think we finished off with a lot of momentum going forward.”

    Barnett says his pitch to NFL GMs is going to be a simple one.

    “I’ll be just selling that I’m a football player. I can play a lot of different positions, I can play inside-outside, I can cover, I’m a guy that’s going to work hard and not say a whole lot, and just do whatever I have to do to help the team win.”

    When asked where he’s heard he could be drafted, Barnett said he’s been told anywhere from the first to second round. Barnett is currently rated No. 9 on Mel Kiper’s ESPN Big Board, and should presumably be a high first round pick.