NFL draft prospect Caleb Farley explains decision to opt-out of college football season

NBC Sports

Top 2021 draft prospect Caleb Farley, a cornerback entering his fourth year at Virginia Tech, became the first high-profile college player to opt-out of the college football season last week. Likely to be one of the first corners picked in the 2021 draft, Farley explained his decision for FMIA.

This was the toughest decision of my life. I live for football. But now that I’ve made the decision, I am totally at peace. I know I’ve done the right thing.

I grew up in a small town in North Carolina and started playing organized football at age 6. It was never a plan or a dream for me to play pro football—it was a mission. My parents—my mom was very spiritual, very protective of me, and my dad had a barber shop—supported me every step of the way. In my town, Maiden, N.C., starting in the Pee Wee league, everyone knew me for football. I was our starting quarterback in my sophomore year of high school. I felt like Lamar Jackson. That year, [coaches] Frank and Shane Beamer from Virginia Tech came to my school to see me, and from then on, I favored Virginia Tech.

In summer camp my freshman year at Virginia Tech, I tore my ACL. Even though that crushed me, it turned out to be a little bit of a blessing. I got to spend a lot of time with my mom, who was battling breast cancer. She raised me to have a superhero mindset, that God makes all things possible. I got to be at her bedside a lot in those last few weeks before she passed on Jan. 2, 2018. When she passed, and God didn’t save her, it attacked my faith. But I had to grow up fast.

Back at Virginia Tech, I got switched to corner before the 2018 season. I never played defense before. There were some growing pains, but I felt good about my progress. In the first game I ever played at corner, we played at Florida State, and I had two interceptions and a sack. By the end of the year, I felt like I was the best cornerback in college. In 2019, I stepped on the field every week with confidence. This year, I wanted to go out and separate myself from every cornerback in the country.

This year at Virginia Tech, at our workouts, I started having deep concerns about staying healthy. Guys were going home, going to Myrtle Beach, coming back to campus, and we weren’t getting tested. We’re all together, working out, close to each other, and you have no real idea who might have it, if anybody might have it. One day I looked around, and we were like 100-deep in our indoor facility, no masks. My concern grew more and more.

I started being really conflicted about playing. What this came down to is, I lost one parent. My dad is so important to me. Growing old with him means so much to me, more than football. I don’t know what I would do if I contracted it and gave it to him, and he passed. I couldn’t live with that. Part of me thought, I put all my eggs into this basket since I was 6 years old . . . just suck it up and play. Try to stay safe. But I couldn’t ignore all the doubts in my head.

Read more in Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.