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Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele declares for the NFL draft

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Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele catches a ball

Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele (17) in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Tucson, Ariz.

Rick Scuteri, Associated Press

Utah wide receiver Devaughn Vele declared for the NFL draft, he announced on Sunday night, forgoing his last year of eligibility.

Vele led Utah in receiving yards in 2023 with 593 yards and three touchdowns on 43 catches this season.

Utah made an effort to get Vele the ball more often in the second half of the season, and it paid off. Vele had an 80-yard performance against Oregon, 56 yards and two touchdowns vs. ASU, then finished off his season with a 145-yard performance at Washington and a 111-yard game at Arizona.

“He’s been our No. 1 receiver all season long, but we haven’t targeted him as much as we needed to in those first several ball games,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Made a concerted effort to get him more targets in the last three or four weeks. It’s paid off in a lot of ways. He has had his most production in the last three or four weeks, and so we just should have done a better job as coaches of getting him the ball early on.”

Over his five-season Utah career, Vele went from walking onto the team in 2019 to becoming a key receiver from 2021 onwards. He totaled 1,689 yards and nine touchdowns on 123 receptions over his time at Utah.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound receiver wrestled with the decision to leave for the NFL following the 2022 season, or return to Utah for the 2023 season, but decided to come back.

“It was a myriad of things for my decision, but I felt like it was a good decision. Grateful to be around the guys,” Vele said in November. “As tough as this season has been, I mean, I think I made the right decision, been able to refine my game, get a little bit more confident and feel a lot better trying to go into the league next year. So I think it was a good decision overall.”

Vele thanked his teammates, coaches and fans in a message on social media.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for blessing me with so much in my life. Words can never do justice how much he has helped me and guided me to where I am today and for that I will be forever grateful,” Vele wrote on X.

“To my family and my amazing wife, I am thankful for all the love and support you guys have continuously given me. Thank you for always being there for me and supporting me through my ups and downs both on and off the field. You are my why and that is what drives me every single day to be great. 

“To the fans, coaches and especially my teammates, thank you you for making my Utah experience so memorable and giving me a chance to play this amazing sport. You helped me become not only a better football player, but also a better man. 

“With that being said, I am excited for the next chapter in my life and will pursue my dream by entering the 2024 NFL draft.”