As expected, Pitt has lost three underclassmen to the upcoming NFL Draft as running back Dion Lewis, receiver Jon Baldwin and fullback Henry Hynoski all declared for April's NFL Draft. The deadline was this coming Saturday.
Baldwin is coming off his second consecutive first-team all-Big East selection. He is the second former Aliquippa standout to forego is senior year in the last five seasons, joining Darrelle Revis who did so following the 2006 season. Revis ended up being a first-round selection of the New York Jets in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Baldwin had just one catch in Saturday's win over Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl. He finished his junior season with 53 catches for 822 yards and 5 touchdown receptions. His sophomore year was more productive, as he caught 57 passes for 1,111 yards and 8 touchdowns.
For his career, Baldwin finishes his career sixth on Pitt's all-time receiving yards list with 2,325 yards. His 128 career receptions rank eighth in school history.
"After careful consideration and discussions with my mother and father, as well as helpful information from Coach Wannstedt regarding my draft status, I have decided to forego my senior season and enter the NFL Draft," Baldwin said in a statement. "I want to thank God for his blessings on my life, as well as my parents for all of their continued support. I want to also thank the University of Pittsburgh, Coach Wannstedt, Chris LaSala and the rest of the coaching staff for the opportunities and guidance they have given me in aiding my development as a student, as a player and as a person at the University. The direction they have provided throughout my three years at Pitt has prepared me for this next step in my life. I wish the University, my teammates, and fans of the program all the best in the future. I will forever be grateful to them for all they have done for me. Hail to Pitt!"
Lewis, on Saturday following Pitt's 27-10 win over Kentucky, that he would talk with his family about his future. Apparently, he only needed a couple days, as he too decided on Monday. Lewis leaves for the NFL after just two years at Pitt, but is eligible to enter the Draft because of an extra year spent at Blair Academy, classified as three years out of high school, which is the rule for being eligible.
In just two years at Pitt, Lewis rushed for 2,859 yards on 544 carries. That's the most rushing yards by a freshman and sophomore in school history. That total also ranks fourth in school history, behind just Tony Dorsett, Curvin Richards and Craig Heyward. Lewis started 23 games in his two-year career, and was the MVP of both the Meineke Car Care Bowl as a freshman, and the BBVA Compass Bowl as a sophomore.
"After significant discussion and contemplation with my family and coaches, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce today that I am declaring myself eligible for this spring's NFL Draft," Lewis said. "I want to thank the University of Pittsburgh, particularly Coach Wannstedt and his staff, for the opportunities afforded me during the last two years. I look forward to the challenges facing me as an NFL rookie, and I believe my time here at the University of Pittsburgh under Coach Wannstedt's tutelage has prepared me extremely well for the demands awaiting me at the next level."
Lewis' lead-blocker Hynoski, a 6-2. 260-pound fullback, is also declaring for the Draft. Hynoski led the team in receiving twice this season--with seven catches for 51 yards in a win over Rutgers earlier this year. He also led the Panthers this past Saturday with two receptions in the win over Kentucky.
Hynoski has the prototypical build of a fullback, and catch the ball well out of the backfield and has been a devastating blocker, a big factor in all the yards that Lewis and Ray Graham have rushed for over the last two years.
"After a long discussion with my close family members I feel that the current time is my best opportunity to fulfill my life-long dream of entering the NFL Draft," Hynoski said. "Along with information I received about my potential draft status, I will earn my degree in April in business marketing. I want to thank Coach Wannstedt, Coach Cignetti and Coach Walker for the wonderful opportunity they have given me to succeed at this outstanding university. I would also like to thank the people of Pittsburgh, as well as my hometown, for their constant support throughout my years here. I wish the best of luck to my team members and I look forward to following the future successes of the Pitt program."