GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Florida standout Kyle Pitts, the team's best player and the top tight end in the country, is turning pro and skipping a potential bowl game.
Pitts made his announcement on social media Sunday, less than 12 hours after the 11th-ranked Gators lost to No. 1 Alabama 52-46 in the Southeastern Conference championship game. The 6-foot-6 junior from Philadelphia finished with seven receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown.
He's expected to be the first tight end selected in the 2021 NFL draft and quite possibly a top-10 pick.
“I have many great memories during my three years at Florida and I will always be a Gator,” Pitts said. "I hope to continue to make Gator Nation proud throughout my career. I will forever miss running out of the tunnel on Saturdays with my brothers in front of 90,000 fans.
“I know it's time for me to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Pitts caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in 7 1/2 games this season. He missed 10 quarters following a vicious hit against Georgia in early November that knocked his helmet so sideways that his facemask fractured his septum. He had surgery and sat out two full games.
He returned and scored three times against Kentucky, including a 56-yard reception early in which he ran away from a starting cornerback.
He was on the sideline again for Florida's regular-season finale, a 37-34 loss to LSU in which the Gators had three turnovers in the second quarter and three three-and-outs in the fourth.
Florida said Pitts was dealing with a lingering injury from the previous week at Tennessee. He lobbied to play but was ultimately overruled, with his health and his future as the main considerations. There’s little doubt, though, that Pitts would have made a difference.
He's expected to win the Mackey Award given annually to college football’s top tight end and surely will get some Heisman Trophy votes.
Pitts will be one of many significant losses on Florida's high-scoring offense. Quarterback Kyle Trask, receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes, and offensive linemen Brett Heggie, Stone Forsythe, Stewart Reese and Jean Delance are all seniors expected to move on.