Wisconsin's J.J. Watt to declare for draft

Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt has decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft in April.

Watt, who began his college career as a tight end at Central Michigan in 2007, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and appeared on several All-America squads after a huge 2009 season. He started the last two seasons for the Badgers after joining the program as a walk-on in 2008.

"This has, without a doubt, been one of the most difficult decisions of my life, and it is one that was not reached quickly, or easily," Watt wrote in an open letter to Wisconsin fans posted on the school's official website. "At this time, I have made the decision to enter the 2011 NFL draft. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember to play in the National Football League, and through hard work and dedication, that dream finally has a chance to become a reality.

"I will be a Wisconsin Badger for life and am forever grateful for all of the love and support that the fans, administration and community have shown to my family and I during my time in Madison. I could not have asked for better coaches to play for, better teammates to play alongside, or a better fan base to represent throughout my collegiate career."

Watt ranked third nationally with 21 tackles for loss this season. He recorded every defensive statistic except safety as he helped the Badgers win their first Big Ten championship since 1999.

Adam Rittenberg covers Big Ten football for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espnritt@gmail.com.