Da'Quan Bowers entering draft

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers will give up his final season of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft.

ESPN draft expert Todd McShay ranked Bowers as the No. 2 player in his top 32, behind only quarterback Andrew Luck of Stanford.

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior had 67 tackles this season and led the nation with 16 sacks. Bowers won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the nation's top defensive player, bursting onto the scene after compiling just four sacks in his first two college seasons.

Bowers thanked his coaches and teammates and says he is ready to go to the next level.

"He's excelled in every area," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said at the December awards banquet. "He's had to overcome some personal tragedy and has still been able to stay focused. He's become the inspirational leader of our team. To see him being honored is really heartwarming for me."

Bowers edged out Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston and LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson for the award presented by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

"It's very big for me, personally," Bowers said abotu the award. "It's very big for my program at Clemson University and it's very big for my family and community."

Bowers, one of the most highly recruited players in his high school class, had a breakout season after the deaths of his father, Dennis, and close friend and mentor Gaines Adams of the Chicago Bears.

Bowers had shed 15 pounds and was performing well in preseason camp in August when his father collapsed while performing in his gospel band. Bowers was later visiting him in the hospital when his father suffered a seizure and died. Bowers spent two weeks away before rejoining the team.

"I think that just fueled his drive that much more," Swinney said. "He's just grown up."

Bowers, wearing Adams' old No. 93, had a sack in nine straight games this season, breaking Adams' record by a game. He also surpassed Adams' record for sacks by a defensive lineman.

"It's his size and the ability to move and bend and change direction and accelerate at 275 pounds," Swinney said. "Most people can't do that. ... He's just extremely gifted and blessed with athleticism. But this year he's put a tremendous work ethic and consistent drive with it."

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad and The Associated Press contributed to this report.