Michigan star defensive lineman Kris Jenkins tells ESPN that he's leaving school early to declare for the NFL draft.

Jenkins proved one of the linchpins of Michigan's championship defense in 2023, as he earned second-team All Big Ten honors and finished the season with 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks.

Jenkins is Mel Kiper Jr.'s No. 5 defensive tackle in this draft and projects as a Top 50 pick. He proved a stalwart amid what was arguably the country's best interior defensive line, as the Wolverines finished No. 5 nationally in rush defense and No. 1 in total defense. Jenkins considered entering the draft after the 2022 season, but he returned for what he called "unfinished business on the field and in the classroom."

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He's redshirted in 2020 and leaves with one year of eligibility remaining. He said he'll earn his degree this spring, and Michigan won the national title over Washington on Monday to complete a 15-0 season.

"After everything this season and being blessed to be part of such an amazing team and season and being able to accomplish everything we wanted from Michigan," Jenkins told ESPN. "For me, it's the perfect time to move onto the next level to see what it has in store for me."

Jenkins brings strong bloodlines to the NFL draft. His father, Kris Jenkins, played football at Maryland and a second-round pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. His uncle, Cullen Jenkins, also played defensive end for more than a decade in the NFL.

The younger Kris Jenkins said he'd like to "talk a little trash" if he got picked before his father. His father went on to be a two-time All Pro and four-time Pro Bowl player, and he's someone whose career the younger Kris Jenkins would like to emulate.

"I'm trying to be a gritty defensive lineman, kinda like my pops, gritty and strong," Jenkins said. "I want to be standing on the frontlines and be disruptive and effective. I want to make sure my voice is heard in the run game and in the pass game."

Jenkins did that for Michigan this season. He flashed in the biggest games, including five tackles against Ohio State, a sack against Alabama in the College Football Playoff and notching four tackles and a quarterback hurry in the Big Ten Title game.

Michigan finished 15-0, and Jenkins said he leaves grateful for the football education. NFL teams will be intrigued that he played under former defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald and current coordinator Jesse Minter, both of whom brought extensive NFL experience to the defensive scheme.

"I'm so grateful for the football education," Jenkins said. "All the coaches that have come through and believed in me and gave me so much more knowledge of the game and developed me into a better football player today than I thought I was when I came in.

"All the opportunities they gave me to succeed and help build and develop me into a young man taking the next step."

Along with the famous bloodlines from his father, Jenkins said he wanted to thank his entire family, starting with him mother Shay, for all their support to get to this moment.

"They loved me unconditionally and believed in me, knowing I had it in me from the start," he said. "I love them unconditionally and hopefully I can make them proud."