Smith-Njigba aims for NFL glory but Ohio State star to miss College Football Playoff

Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Ohio State star receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba vowed to make "an even bigger impact" when turning professional after declaring for the NFL Draft, though he will miss the College Football Playoff.

A hamstring injury has limited Smith-Njigba, one of the most decorated players in college football and the country's top wide receiver draft prospect, to just three outings this season.

The 20-year-old hoped to be fit for the December 31 clash against Georgia in the College Football Playoff but will be sidelined after consultation with the doctors.

That means the wide receiver has played his last game for Ohio as he confirmed he will put his name forward for the 2023 NFL Draft, which starts on April 27.

"I want to be out there competing with my brothers more than anything," Smith-Njigba told ESPN on Monday.

"Ohio State means the world to me. Watching from afar will be difficult, but I will be cheering my guys on and praying we get [the win].

"The decision to turn pro was made after I was unable to come back on multiple occasions during the season and the doctors determined I would be unable to participate in the playoffs."

Smith-Njigba posted a Big Ten record with 1,606 receiving yards on 95 receptions while playing alongside 2022 first-round draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave last season.

A fine individual campaign included a remarkable Rose Bowl performance, in which he recorded 15 catches for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith-Njigba has failed to hit similar heights in 2022, managing just five catches for 43 yards after battling with a hamstring issue – much to his frustration.

"More than you could imagine," he said of his struggles amid an injury-plagued year. "The season was tough, and I did everything I could to help my team and get back on the field.

"Sometimes things don't work out how you planned, but my faith in God has given me the strength to focus on my health and the next challenge.

"I'm going to have an even bigger impact in the NFL than when I played at OSU. I'm a playmaker who helps my team win and nothing has changed.

"My game both physically and mentally has only improved. The NFL is going to get a better version of me, and I'm excited to have the opportunity to show everyone that I still am [the best wide receiver]."