This story is compiled from reports by The Times and Democrat, The Post and Courier and The Associated Press.
CLEMSON - Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is turning pro.
Bowers' decision, which he revealed Wednesday, is hardly a surprise considering Bowers' early first-round NFL draft grade.
The Nagurski award winner led the country with 15.5 sacks this fall, a half-sack shy of the program record, en route to unanimous All-America honors. The decision is another early offseason blow to Clemson, which lost Bowers' positional coach, former Calhoun County head football coach Chris Rumph, to Alabama a day earlier.
"I want to thank everyone at Clemson for all they have done for me the last three years," Bowers said in a release. "I feel I am ready to go to the next level and I look forward to working hard in preparation for the draft."
Bowers arrived on campus as ESPN's No. 1 overall prospect in the country in 2008 out of Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School. A Shrine Bowl and All-State selection and first-team Associated Press All-American, Bowers earned MVP honors at the inaugural Under Armour All-American game as a senior.
After collecting just four total sacks in his first two seasons, Bowers exploded in 2010. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and the school's first-ever winner of the Nagurski Award and the Ted Hendricks Award as the top defensive end.
Bowers was also Clemson's fourth unanimous first-team All-American in school history and a finalist for the Lombardi Award and the Bednarik Award. He recommitted himself last summer before his senior year and dedicated the season to his late father, Dennis, who died prior to the season.
Bowers cites losing his father and his mentor, Gaines, the former Clemson defensive end, in 2010 as inspiration for his breakout season.
Dennis died in August after collapsing at a gospel concert. Adams, the Chicago Bears defensive lineman, died in January. Bowers had talked with both about stepping up his game his junior season.
"You hear people talk about the Clemson family, and when my father passed this past summer, I saw that first hand," Bowers said. "There is a great support system at Clemson. The coaches and players were all there for me and I will never forget that."
Things clicked on the field for the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Bowers. Besides his sack total, Bowers was second in the country with 26 tackles for loss. His sacks surpassed Adams' school record for defensive linemen.
Bowers was second on the team this fall with 74 tackles and led the Tigers with 20 quarterback pressures, most of the time dealing with two or three offensive players trying to slow his pursuit.
Dabo Swinney had hoped the NFL's labor strife and likely depressed rookie salaries might compel Bowers to return for his senior year. But Bowers had been contacted by dozens of agents, who advised him to enter the draft and begin working toward free agency.
Swinney released a statement following Bowers' decision:
"Da'Quan and I talked about this decision at length," Swinney said. "We obviously would love to have him return for his senior year, but we certainly understand the decision. Most see him as a top five selection in the NFL draft. He has grown as a person this past year and he showed everyone his capabilities on the field. We challenged him to become a dominant defensive player and he was just that."
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. and Scouts Inc. both list Bowers as high as number two on the board behind Stanford's Andrew Luck, who has yet to announce his future plans. This would make Bowers the third T&D Region player since 2005 picked in the first round and the highest overall selection ahead of Woodland defensive back Tye Hill (15th overall in 2006) and Orangeburg-Wilkinson offensive tackle Alex Barron (19th overall in 2005) who were both selected in the first round by the St. Louis Rams.
Bowers also follows in the footsteps of former Red Raider and Clemson teammate Ricky Sapp, who was selected in the fifth round last April by the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I feel I am ready to go to the next level ," Bowers said.