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Minnesota Gophers superstar, and top NFL prospect, Rashod Bateman has decided to opt-out of the Gophers 2020 season to focus on preparing the 2021 NFL Draft. In a video released on Bateman’s Twitter, he stated his thanks to the Minnesota fans, his coaches, and his reason for forgoing the 2020 season. It should come as no surprise that his reason is the uncertainty with COVID-19 and its potential lasting effects.

Since he arrived on campus as Freshman in 2018, Bateman has done nothing but put up numbers. In 2018, he caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns. In 2019, he caught 60 passes for 1219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also garnered third team All-American, first team Big Ten, and Big Ten receiver of the year honors for his work in his sophomore season.

Bateman is expected to be a top pick in next year’s NFL Draft. It’s unclear whether this move will help or hurt his draft stock at this point. He will be following in the footsteps of teammates Tyler Johnson and Antoine Winfield Jr, both of whom were drafted by the new look Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Though the Minnesota Vikings have made strides to replace the traded Stefon Diggs, mostly drafting Justin Jefferson in the first round, Bateman is likely going to be on their radar as a local product with incredible talent.

Bateman chose to come to Minnesota, forgoing offers from programs with more prestige that were closer to his hometown of Tifton, Georgia. The biggest reason for Bateman choosing the Gophers over another, bigger program was head coach PJ Fleck.

Fleck responded to Bateman’s leaving with his usual grace, stating that he would “always be there for him [Bateman]” and of course reminding fans to keep Rowing the boat. It’ll be tough without the best receiver in the big ten, but Minnesota fans will undoubtedly keep cheering on their Gophers and the best head coach for the school in recent history.