Marshall football’s leader of the secondary is leaving the school to pursue a childhood dream.
Redshirt junior safety Malik Gant announced on Thursday that he will forgo his senior season and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
“I have aspired to play in the National Football League since I was five years old,” Gant said in a statement released to the public. “This journey went from playing throwback tackle (football) in the backyard to national televised college games. I realize that I am now close to fulfilling my dream and it is phenomenal because the journey has not always been easy.”
Gant, a former walk-on, finished the 2018 season second on the team with 95 tackles and added nine tackles for loss, eight pass break-ups, two interceptions and a sack. He was also named a candidate for the Jim Thorpe Award during the season, was selected as Marshall’s 2018 team MVP, was an All-Conference USA First Team Defensive selection and a Pro Football Focus Second Team All-American.
Gant’s departure marks the second straight season a Marshall player has declared early for the NFL Draft. Former Herd quarterback Chase Litton went undrafted in last year’s NFL Draft and is currently on the practice squad of the Kansas City Chiefs.
A native of Washington, D.C., Gant will seek to become the second Marshall player from H.D. Woodson High School to be drafted into the NFL. The first was former quarterback Byron Leftwich, who was selected in the first round in 2003 by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Leftwich is currently the offensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gant is also looking to become the first Marshall defensive player to be drafted since former Herd cornerback Darryl Roberts was selected in the seventh round in 2015 by the New England Patriots. Roberts currently plays for the New York Jets.
“I am forever thankful to Marshall University and the great town of Huntington, West Virginia, for supporting me throughout three tremendous years of playing for an exemplary football program where football is truly more than a game,” Gant said. “I am grateful to the entire Marshall football coaching staff for giving a young man from the inner city of Washington, D.C., an opportunity to walk on and play collegiate football at the highest level.”
“Malik has been a great ambassador for our Marshall football program the last few years,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said in a statement on Twitter. “He protected the ‘M’ every time he suited up. Best of luck to him as he prepares to play at the next level.”
Gant, listed on Marshall’s website at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, will train at the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa Florida, where he will be coached by former Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson.
The 2019 NFL Draft takes place in Nashville Tennessee, from Apr. 25-27. First-round picks are announced on Apr. 25, second and third round selections are made on Apr. 26 and rounds 4-7 take place on Apr. 27.