All through Fiesta Bowl week, Saquon Barkley tried desperately to deflect all questions about if and when he would declare for NFL Draft, saying it was taking attention away from the bowl game.

Asked his timetable for announcing a decision, Barkley said he was unsure, adding that it "could take a week, two weeks, or maybe not until close to the (Jan. 15) deadline."

As it turned out, Barkley needed only 24 hours after the Nittany Lions defeated Washington, 35-28, announcing Sunday night that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft,

"God has blessed me with the opportunity to pursue the dream I have had since I was a little kid of playing in the NFL," Barkley said in a statement released by Penn State. "After lots of thought, prayer and conversation with those closest to me, I have decided to forgo my senior season and enter the NFL Draft."

Barkley, of Coplay, Pa., who is considered a top-five pick in the next draft by a number of observers, closed his career on Saturday with 137 yards rushing and two touchdowns, one on a school record-tying 92-yard run, and seven receptions for 38 yards.

He finishes at Penn State with 3,843 rushing yards, second on the school's all-time list, just short of Evan Royster's record of 3,932 set from 2007 to 2010.

Barkley ended the 2017 season with 1,271 yards rushing and 54 catches for 632 yards. He set a school record for career rushing touchdowns with 43, and his 23 total touchdowns this season – 18 rushing, three receiving, two on kickoff returns – tied for second for a single-season on Penn State's all-time list.

Barkley was a 2017 consensus All-America as either a running back, all-purpose back or kick returner. He won the Paul Hornung Award for his versatility. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting and was a finalist for the Maxwell Award.

"I hope I have left a lasting impression on this university, football program, and community at large," he said. "It has been an honor and privilege to be able to call Penn State home and represent the Blue and White and all of the great players who came before me and will follow after me."

He also said he made a promise to his parents and to head coach James Franklin to return to school to get his degree.

Franklin called Barkley a "once-in-a-lifetime player.

"Saquon has left a legacy both on and off the field that will long be remembered by the Penn State community," he said. "As good of a player as he is, he is an even better person and I look forward to watching him achieve his dream of playing in the NFL."