Ehlinger supportive, thankful for players who declared for NFL Draft

Myah Taylor

Sam Ehlinger’s left side might feel a bit different when he drops back to pass against Kansas State on Saturday. 

Left tackle Sam Cosmi has been one of the senior quarterback’s greatest protectors over the last two seasons, so Ehlinger said he’ll miss the redshirt junior’s presence in Manhattan, Kansas, this weekend. He’ll also miss the challenge junior safety Caden Sterns has posed to him in practice. 

Both Cosmi and Sterns declared for the 2021 NFL Draft early this week, so they’ll forgo the remainder of the Texas football season. Now that the Longhorns are out of Big 12 title contention after Texas’ loss to Iowa State last Friday, the general sentiment is that the team no longer has much to play for.

Critics have said Cosmi and Sterns are quitting on the team simply because the season didn’t go their way, but the players have the support of Ehlinger and other teammates.

“Everybody’s situation, things are different,” Ehlinger said. 

Football is a game of odds, beyond the overs and unders. A high school football player has a 2.9% chance to play at the Division I level, according to data from the NCAA. That same player has a 1.6% chance to make it to the NFL. 

Injuries, career-ending or not, might lessen those odds. NCAA data from the 2004-2009 seasons show that the overall injury rate for a football athlete is 8.1 injuries per 1,000 exposures, which includes both games and practices combined.

 



Sterns, who has been banged up throughout his Texas career, is taking a bet on himself now.

“After much thought and prayer, I’ve arrived at the decision that it is time to follow my lifelong dream and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft,” Sterns said in a statement he tweeted Monday.

These aspirations aren’t just for himself. Sterns said in a May media availability that his mother, Brandi Biddy, “deserves the world” for all the sacrifices she made for him and his older brother. The safety said he hopes to take care of her in the future.

Cosmi said in his announcement that he thought it would be in his “best interest” to opt out of the remainder of the season after talking it over with family. A former three-star recruit, the left tackle exceeded expectations during his time at UT. He’s projected to be a first-round draft pick.

“Coming in as a young skinny lineman and starting out on the scout team and ending up where I am now is a true testament to God, this program, and everyone who has helped me become the man I am today,” Cosmi said in a statement he tweeted Sunday.

The negative comments directed at the two men, deeming them selfish, “me first” guys have become the norm in 2020 — the year of player empowerment.

As of Thursday afternoon, 139 players have opted out of the season in some capacity, either because of COVID-19 concerns or to prepare for the NFL Draft, according to The Athletic. On the flip side, numerous players spoke out during the #WeWantToPlay movement when the college football season was on the ropes late into the summer. 

Ehlinger might get sacked a bit more this weekend, and he won’t hear friendly trash talk on the practice field anymore, but all he has is love for Cosmi and Sterns.

“I have so much to be thankful for from both of those guys,” Ehlinger said. “I can’t be mad at them because of the impact they had on my life.”