Pair of Tennessee Linemen Declare for the NFL Draft

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    Two Tennessee defensive linemen have declared for the NFL Draft recently after finishing their collegiate careers in the Music City Bowl last week. On Wednesday afternoon, Tennessee’s Matthew Butler and Ja’Quain (Jay) Blakely both made their announcements.

    With both Butler and Blakely having completed their Tennessee careers, both men are now looking to take their game to the next level. Both of the Tennessee defensive linemen will be working extensively in the next few months as they search for an opportunity to play in the NFL.

    “Vol Nation, I can’t thank y’all enough for the unwavering passion and support that has been given the past 5 years,” Butler said in a post on social media. “Since I was a child I’ve dreamed of playing and excelling in the NFL. That starts now as I prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.”

    Blakely also posted a similar message to Twitter, thanking the Tennessee fanbase as he updated everyone on his next step.

    “Rocky Top will truly always be home,” Blakely said in closing. “With all of this being said, after many prayers and consideration, I have decided to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. Thank you all so much. 48 out!”

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    Butler, a super-senior from Raleigh, N.C., was tremendous for Tennessee in his final season. The dominant defensive lineman was second on the team in sacks with five and was fourth on the team in tackles per loss (8.5). But what really made Butler so valuable to this Tennessee team was his consistent reliability. Butler had one of the highest snap counts on the team this year, which is saying something for a defensive lineman sitting at 295-pounds. In addition, Butler always had some of the most memorable press-conference moments throughout the year.

    Blakely, on the other hand, was the other half of Tennessee’s dynamic duo with Butler. The sixth-year senior has been with Tennessee since 2016 but had his most effective season by far in 2021 under assistant coach Rodney Garner and head coach Josh Heupel. During his career, Blakely played in 49 total games for the Big Orange with ten starts to his name. Additionally, Blakely had career-highs in 2021 for tackles (29) and tackles for loss (5).

    Ric Butler is a Knoxville based sports media personality who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 2017. Most recently, he served as the lead writer for the website of a local radio station. Ric also helped create and host a daily radio show called “The Blitz." Ric’s passion for sports, smooth vocal, and infectious personality have made him popular with both his peers and Vol Nation. Originally from Dallas, Ric didn’t grow up riding horses to school. But he did dream of the big city lights. When not chasing down the latest Tennessee story, Ric can be found watching the WWE, often attempting their moves in an embarrassing fashion.