Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney, the Imhotep Charter graduate who became an elite pass rusher for the Nittany Lions, has announced his decision to declare for the NFL draft.
Toney, a fifth-year senior during the 2020 season, could have accepted the extra year offered by the NCAA during this year of the pandemic and come back in 2021, but felt it was time to move on.
He disclosed his plans Monday night in a statement on Twitter that ended with the hashtag “#JOURNEYCOMPLETE.”
“Growing up in Philadelphia, it was always a dream to play college football,” he said. “It has been a dream come true to have been able to play at a prestigious university like Penn State.
“After discussing with my family, coaches and teammates, I have decided to declare for the upcoming NFL Draft.”
Toney went on to thank his teammates and coaches with special mention to head coach James Franklin; his two defensive line coaches during his time in the program, Sean Spencer and John Scott Jr.; and graduate assistant coach Deion Barnes, a former Penn State defensive end and Northeast High graduate.
“I’m excited for this next chapter and I will forever bleed blue and white,” he concluded. “Thank you Penn State.”
The 6-foot-3, 252-pound Toney, a team captain this season, started all nine games in 2020. He led the Lions with five sacks and was second with 7 ½ tackles for losses. He was named a first-team All-Big Ten defensive end by conference coaches and media and the Associated Press, and accepted an invitation to next month’s Senior Bowl.
Toney finished his Penn State career with 20 ½ sacks, eighth on the program’s all-time list.
“His pass-rushing ability is elite,” Lions defensive coordinator Brent Pry said during the season. “What people don’t understand is that he’s an every-down guy. He knows how to play with leverage. He might be the smartest guy on our defense, from understanding his position and mastering his craft. He’s just in a really good place.”
Franklin praised Toney’s leadership several times during a difficult season.
“I think he’s got a bright future,” Franklin said. “I think during the season, his message in the locker room with our guys and with our team, before games and after games, after success and after setbacks, has been really strong. Shaka’s got strong opinions and beliefs, and he’s really handled those things the right way during the season.”
The latest NFL draft prospect rankings have Toney rated No. 114 overall by CBSSports.com and No. 140 by ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay. Another draft analyst, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., ranks Toney as the No. 9 outside linebacker prospect.
Lions get two more transfers
Defensive tackle Derrick Tangelo, who played in 45 games over four seasons at Duke, and cornerback John Dixon, who played for two seasons at South Carolina, both announced on Twitter that they had committed to play at Penn State shortly after entering the NCAA transfer portal.
The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Tangelo, of Gaithersburg, Md., played in all 11 games this season with 10 starts and posted 40 tackles with four tackles for loss, two sacks and three forced fumbles. He started 27 games in his career.
The 6-0, 185-pound Dixon, of Tampa, Fla., was in on 34 tackles, five pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 10 games (eight starts) this season with the Gamecocks.
Tangelo and Dixon join running back John Lovett, a graduate transfer from Baylor who played his high school football at Cherokee, as new additions to the Nittany Lions.