Paulson Adebo ’21 opts out of football season, readies for 2021 NFL draft

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As Stanford football begins to ramp up for a season to start Nov. 6, senior cornerback Paulson Adebo ’21 announced on Thursday that he will opt out of the season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

“When I chose to come back last year, I was looking forward to coming back and taking the field for one more year repping the Stanford Cardinal with my brothers,” Adebo wrote in his announcement. “Unfortunately, 2020 has not gone according to plan. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity that playing football and attending school at Stanford University has given me.” 

After a breakout redshirt freshman season in 2018 in which he led the nation and set a school record with 24 passes defended and was named to the FWAA All-America Second Team, Adebo was viewed as a potential first-round NFL draft pick when the time came. Adebo struggled at the beginning of his next season and was limited to nine games due to injury, but still managed to finish with four interceptions, 33 tackles and 10 pass breakups. In the offseason heading into his senior year, Adebo announced that he would return for a final season.

“I was given the opportunity to learn how to play the defensive back position from the best DB coach in Duane Akina and I’m forever grateful for the knowledge bestowed upon me,” Adebo wrote. “I’ve had the luxury of being surrounded by great teammates and coaches that understood both football and life outside of football.”

Stanford will be hurt not only by the loss of two-time All-Pac-12 First Team member Adebo, but also two other opt-outs on defense. Senior strong safety Stuart Head ’21 has decided to enter the transfer portal and will graduate with a degree in Political Science in March. Senior defensive end Dylan Boles ’21 made a similar announcement on Sept. 25.

On offense, the only opt-out thus far has been likely first round draft pick senior left tackle Walker Little ’21. 

During his Wednesday Zoom conference with the press, head coach David Shaw ’95 was asked about the timetable for opt-outs and maintained that they happen and are a part of the game.

“An opt-out can happen at any time,” Shaw said. “If something changes during the course of the year, and someone in conversations with their family decided to opt out for COVID reasons, then great, completely understand.”

For someone like Adebo, who likely has a professional future in the sport, the option to prepare for the draft is enticing, especially given the Pac-12’s late return. Many defensive backs, including three from Oregon, have made the same decision. In total, 105 players have opted out across all FBS teams, according to The Athletic’s tracker.

“Paulson has everything NFL scouts are looking for in a corner,” Shaw said in an email statement. “He has great speed, long arms, great instincts and the ball skills of a wide receiver. Most importantly he is mentally and physically tough, extremely competitive and has a high football IQ. He will make a significant impact early in his NFL career.”

Contact Daniel Martinez-Krams at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Daniel Martinez-Krams '22 is a staff writer in the sports section covering football, women's soccer, women's basketball and baseball. He is originally from Berkeley, California. Contact him at danielmk ‘at’ stanford.edu.