PISCATAWAY, NJ–The Rutgers career of weakside linebacker Steve Longa came to a swift end on December 22 when the redshirt junior announced he will forgo his senior season with the Scarlet Knights and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.

Longa is coming off his best season on the banks, as he recorded 113 tackles despite dealing with a nagging upper body injury for much of the season that even forced him to miss a game.

In each of his three years with the Scarlet Knights, Longa led the team in tackles.

The Saddle Brook native burst onto the scene in 2013 after redshirting his freshman season, recording 120 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and four passes defended, all career highs.

The tackling machine finishes eighth on the program’s all-time tackling list, finishing with 335.

Longa’s departure for the pros always seemed like a possibility once Kyle Flood was relieved of his duties. Flood was the head coach for Longa’s entire college career.

Despite Rutgers hiring the defensive-minded Chris Ash to replace Flood, Longa still opted to pursue a career in the NFL after enjoying a season as one of Rutgers’ top defensive playmakers.

Longa’s story is an interesting one.  He grew up in Cameroon before moving to the United States in 2007, and never even stepped on a football field until freshman year of high school.

Longa was not a highly-touted recruit out of high school, ranking as a three-star prospect by recruiting sites.

Other than Rutgers, the only Power Five school to offer him a chance to play football was Maryland.   Longa also received offers from Temple, FIU and Western Michigan before deciding on the Scarlet Knights.

Now, four years later, he is on the doorstep of an NFL career.  The 2016 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 30.

Rutgers players leaving early for the draft have seen mixed results in recent years.

Wide receiver Brandon Coleman declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, but surprisingly went undrafted before signing with the New Orleans Saints.

Tight end Tyler Kroft had better luck in the 2015 draft, as the Cincinnati Bengals selected him in the third round.

Longa’s departure leaves the Scarlet Knights painfully thin at linebacker.

In addition to Longa departing, starting strongside linebacker Quentin Gause and starting middle linebacker Kaiwan Lewis both graduated.

While Isaiah Johnson will likely take over in the middle, it is unclear who will take over for Longa and Gause. Deonte Roberts and T.J. Taylor are possibilities, as are incoming recruits Jonathan Pollock and Solomon Manning.

Projections regarding where Longa will go in the draft are hard to come by, as many did not expect the linebacker to be draft eligible until 2017.

Reporter at New Brunswick Today