Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
The Colorado football players that have declared early for the NFL draft over the years (all declared after their junior year):
1993 — DT Leonard Renfro (1st round – Philadelphia)
1994 — RB Lamont Warren (6th round – Indianapolis)
1995 — RB Rashaan Salaam (1st round – Chicago)
1995 — DE Shannon Clavelle (6th round – Buffalo)
2000 — CB Ben Kelly (3rd round – Miami)
2003 — RB Chris Brown (3rd round – Tennessee)
2013 — OT David Bakhtiari (4th round – Green Bay)
2014 — WR Paul Richardson (2nd round – Seattle)
2018 — CB Isaiah Oliver (TBD)
The opportunity to realize a dream and play in the National Football League was too good to pass up for Isaiah Oliver.
On Friday, Colorado’s standout cornerback announced that he will forego his senior year with the Buffaloes and enter the 2018 NFL draft.
“The University of Colorado has offered me an incredible experience and will always be a part of who I am,” Oliver wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I am extremely grateful for Coach (Mike) MacIntyre, Coach (ShaDon) Brown, the entire coaching staff, along with the support staff of the football program for molding me as a person, player and student-athlete.”
In addition to being a standout on the field football, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Oliver has starred as a decathlete in track and field at CU. In fact, it was CU’s willingness to let him do both sports that led him to come to Boulder after graduating from Brophy Prep in Goodyear, Ariz.
Oliver is the ninth player in CU history to declare early for the draft, and the first since receiver Paul Richardson in 2014.
“Playing in the NFL has been a goal of mine and I believe it’s time to pursue this opportunity and provide for my family,” Oliver wrote on Twitter. “This was an extremely difficult decision. The coaching staff has done an amazing job developing and mentoring me. If it weren’t for the incredible support I have received, this would not be possible.”
Oliver told CUBuffs.com that he wasn’t against returning for his senior year, but “we felt like where I am physically and mentally as a player, it’s time to take the next step. We’re really excited about it and looking forward to the next challenge.”
Oliver played in 10 games this season for the Buffs — missing two with a leg injury — posting 13 pass breakups and two interceptions. This was his only year as a full-time starter, as he spent the previous two years playing behind or alongside Chidobe Awuzie, Ken Crawley and Ahkello Witherspoon — who are all currently in the NFL.
Oliver arrived at CU in 2015 and played immediately. He played in 37 of CU’s 39 games over the past three years, with 32 pass breakups and three interceptions. He also had a 68-yard punt return for touchdown to clinch a 20-10 win against UCLA in 2016.
“He’s a phenomenal person and a phenomenal athlete,” MacIntyre said to CUBuffs.com. “We’re honored to have had him for three years and now he’s going on to the next chapter of his life. I’m honored and privileged and proud that I was able to coach him.”
Oliver has been projected by some as a first-round selection, and in doing research he felt good about how NFL scouts view him.
“Most people seem to think I’m a top five corner,” he said. “It could be anywhere from the first round to the mid- to late second round, all based on combine testing from here on out.”
CU has had 24 players go in the first round of the NFL draft, most recently in 2011, when tackle Nate Solder and cornerback Jimmy Smith were both selected.
In track and field, Oliver competed two seasons at CU. As a freshman in 2016, he was seventh at the Pac-12 championships in the decathlon. As a sophomore this past spring, he was fourth. He earned All-Pac-12 honors both seasons, under the tutelage of CU assistant coach Lindsey Malone.
“It was a privilege working with coach Malone,” he said. “She’s a tremendous all-around coach, and I’ve always been a firm believer that track makes me a better football player. I feel like she understood that as well, so I honestly believe a lot of my football success is a credit to her. What she allowed me to do the last few years helped make me the football player I am today.”
Oliver has followed in the footsteps of his father, Muhammad, who was a cornerback and world-class decathlete at Oregon before a five-year career in the NFL. Muhammad was a ninth-round selection by the Denver Broncos in 1992.