SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - Utah defensive end Joe Kruger has announced that he will not return next fall for his senior season and will enter the 2013 NFL draft. The 6’7”, 280-pound junior, who will turn 21 in June, played in 37-of-38 games from 2010-12 with 14 starts.
Kruger played in 11 games—starting seven at right end—in 2012. He finished the season with 30 total tackles, including eight tackles for loss and a team-high six sacks.
He is the youngest of three Kruger brothers who have played for the Utes. Paul currently plays linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, while Dave finished his Ute career this past fall as a four-year starting defensive tackle.
“I am releasing this statement after much prayer, consideration and evaluation with my family in announcing that I have decided to forgo my final year of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL draft," Kruger said in a statement.
“These past three years, I have been honored to be a part of a very special group of teammates and coaches at the University of Utah. I have cherished what has been my amazing college experience. The privilege to play under someone as great as Coach Kyle Whittingham has been a tremendous opportunity. The experience of playing together with my brother Dave has been priceless. Now it is my journey to pursue a lifelong dream, which is to become a professional football player in the National Football League.
“This decision is one of the toughest that I have ever had to make. As I reflect on the University of Utah, my teammates, all of my coaches, the football staff, and most importantly the Utah fans, I am filled with humility and deep gratitude. These past years at Utah have been a tremendous learning and growing experience for me. I want to thank everyone at the University and all the Utes everywhere for their support.
“It is my hope in making this decision that the fans, coaches, teammates, and the Utah athletic department will continue to support me and my family as I take this next step in attaining my goals.
“My heart belongs to Utah and I wish continued prosperity and success to my Utah Utes!”
Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham was counting on Kruger to anchor the defensive line next year, especially with the losses of Star Lotulelei and Dave Kruger, but he understands Kruger's decision.
“Joe and his family spent a lot of time making this decision and concluded that it’s in Joe’s best interest to forego his senior year of eligibility and enter the draft," Whittingham said. "Joe certainly has NFL potential and we wish him the best as he takes his game to the next level. The Kruger name has been synonymous with Utah football for a lot of years and we are very appreciative for all they have done for our program. ”