Gophers senior linebacker Kamal Martin will not play in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
The Burnsville native announced his decision on Instagram on Sunday, writing he instead will focus on preparing for the NFL draft and avoiding injury. Martin could be a second- or third-round pick come April.
"After much prayer and many discussions with my family, teammates and coaches, I have decided to begin preparations for the NFL Draft and will not play be playing in the Outback Bowl," Martin wrote. "I am extremely grateful to the prestigious University of Minnesota for allowing this hometown kid to both graduate with a degree in business and marketing education and play for our incredible football team."
Martin missed several games during this 10-2 season. He sat out the opener serving the final leg of a two-game suspension for violating team rules that also took him out of last year's Quick Lane Bowl. He missed the final nonconference game with a foot sprain. He then sat out Maryland and Penn State after enduring an apparent knee injury at Rutgers on Oct. 19. He also appeared to injure himself again in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin, though he did finish the game.
Despite all that, he was second on the team with 66 tackles and had two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a sack and a pass breakup.
Martin is the first senior to announce he will not play against Auburn in Tampa, Fla. But the Gophers have several other draft prospects this year, including senior receiver Tyler Johnson, senior defensive end Carter Coughlin and fourth-year sophomore Antoine Winfield Jr. Winfield, for example, is currently deliberating on whether to return to the Gophers or declare for the draft with two years of eligibility remaining.
Winfield leads the Gophers with 83 tackles and seven interceptions, and his absence, with Martin's, would greatly impact the Gophers defense. The linebackers, at least, have filled in for Martin before, with sophomore Mariano Sori-Marin and redshirt freshman Braelen Oliver stepping up alongside fellow senior starter Thomas Barber.
Last season, linebacker Blake Cashman and offensive tackle Donnell Greene both decided to skip the Quick Lane Bowl to focus on the draft. That has become a common theme across college football in recent years; already at least 10 players for this bowl season, which begins Friday, have elected not to play.
Auburn, though, recently had a player decide the opposite. Senior defensive tackle Derrick Brown, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, took to social media Friday to share his intent to play against the Gophers.
The Gophers used the final weekend ahead of early signing day Wednesday to land a couple more recruits.
The headliner is Jalen Logan-Redding, who flipped his commitment from Missouri, an SEC program, to the Gophers. The defensive end is 6-4, 235 pounds and a Missouri native.
Tyrell Lawrence, a 6-7, 344-pound tackle from Canada out of Clearwater Academy International, also shared his commitment decision on Twitter.
The website 247Sports.com ranks both as three-star recruits.
The Gophers now have 25 members of their 2020 class, who can begin signing their national letters of intent Wednesday, with many then enrolling early in January.
The Gophers also added a kicker as a preferred walk-on to their 2020 class. Dragan Kesich is a 6-4, 245-pound Wisconsin native rated as a two-star recruit, according to 247Sports.com. He's also the No. 7 kicker in the country, per Kohl's Professional Camps.