MSU junior linebacker and Starkville native Willie Gay Jr. is entering the NFL draft.

STARKVILLE - Whenever Mississippi State hires its next coach, his linebackers room will have already taken a hit.

Starkville native Willie Gay Jr. announced his intentions to enter the NFL Draft early on Monday morning.

“Playing for your hometown team is a feeling words cannot describe and so few are blessed to experience,” Gay tweeted. “This city and university will always hold a special place in my heart as the only home I’ve ever known. I’m so thankful for all I have, while I pursue all I’ve ever dreamed of. After much thought and prayer I have decided to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft.”

The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior played in 31 games during his three seasons at MSU totaling 99 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and three interceptions – one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Gay’s junior season was marred by an eight-game suspension but still managed 28 stops, 3.5 for loss, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a 52-yard pick-6 against Kentucky on his first snap of the season. He tallied 11 solo tackles and forced a fumble in the Music City Bowl.

He was also ejected for two unsportsmanlike committing conduct penalties against Kentucky and was also responsible for fracturing teammate Garrett Shrader's face in a fight at practice that kept the quarterback out of the bowl game.

Gay is the third State player to declare for the NFL Draft early along with cornerback Cameron Dantzler and running back Kylin Hill.

Twitter: @loganlowery

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