The Gophers' leading tackler during the regular season, Blake Cashman, got ejected from his final regular season game of the season due to a targeting on the punt team when Minnesota beat Wisconsin on Nov. 24.
His fellow defenders were relieved to know that they would be able to play one more game with the senior from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, who started off as a walk on and worked his way to one of the more impressive players on the defensive side of the ball.
But on Tuesday, Cashman announced on his Instagram account that he would not be playing in the Gophers' Quick Lane bowl game on Dec. 26 to prepare for professional football after college.
"I’ve been putting this off for sometime now, but after a lot of thought and discussions with people close to me I have decided to forego the remainder of my eligibility," Cashman wrote on Instagram. "I’m so grateful for everything the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Football program, and Coach Fleck and his staff have done for me to help put me in the position I’m in today. This was a very hard decision for me, but I feel in my heart that getting a jump start on training will give me the best opportunity at the next level.
Cashman started as a walk on defensive back, and worked his way to a scholarship at the weak side linebacker position when he was a junior in head coach P.J. Fleck's first year of the program. He started getting playing time as a stand-out performer on special teams.
"It was very tough, there's a lot of people that agree with it, but on the flip side there's a lot of people that disagree with and get hurt and upset by those decisions made by college football players," Cashman said about his decision to sit the bowl game out.
He said his injury history has been an issue with NFL representatives that agents have spoken with.
"Something that every person that has talked with NFL teams has brought up is the concern with my shoulders, and the health issues I've had with those injuries," Cashman said.
Cashman is not the only one on the team forgoing the game. Lineman Donnell Greene announced earlier this month that he would sit out the Quick Lane Bowl to get ready for the NFL as well. Greene underwent a meniscus surgery and signed with an agent after the Wisconsin victory.
Former Gophers linebacker Jack Lynn was a senior when Cashman was a sophomore and got picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Falcons. He played in the Holiday Bowl in his senior season.
"I understand both sides of the situation," Lynn said. "For his sake, he wants to fulfill his dream and he doesn't want to get injured. But for the team's sake, he's showing that — I don't know, that he's putting himself first. The business side of football, so to speak."
Cashman said Fleck and his teammates have been supportive of his decision. He said he's been holding off making his decision public after making the decision "a week, week and a half" after the Wisconsin win.
"I'm going to miss being around my teammates and coaches. And that's something I tell everyone, is that when I'm not being a player here, not being a student anymore, it kills me not to be around those guys because I've built so many friendships and relationships that are going to last a lifetime," Cashman said.