COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The next potential NFL star out of Ohio State is taking the step to professional football this year.

Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud announced he will enter the NFL Draft and forgo his senior season at Ohio State. His NFL journey will begin in February at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

“To Buckeye Nation, it’s been a helluva ride,” said Stroud in an announcement. “To the students, alumni, and all of THE Ohio State fans, thank you for welcoming a kid from Cali into the Buckeye family. As a kid, I dreamed of playing football at the highest level and after much prayer, I’ve made the decision that it’s time to turn those dreams into a reality.”

The announcement comes after four of Stroud’s teammates have already declared for the 2023 NFL Draft – Dawand Jones, Paris Johnson, Luke Wypler, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. It’s possible OSU could have three players taken in the first round of the draft, which has not happened since 2020.

The 21-year-old from California led the Buckeyes in back-to-back 11-2 seasons in which he won the Rose Bowl in 2021 and fell to Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Peach Bowl in 2022.

In two seasons as the Buckeye starter, Stroud played 25 games, broke 13 passing records, and threw for 8,121 yards and 85 touchdowns, second only to J.T. Barrett. Stroud put up monster numbers in the two bowl games he started. He followed a six-touchdown, 573-yard game against Utah in the Rose Bowl with a four-touchdown, 348-yard stat line in the Peach Bowl loss to Georgia. He finished this season with 3,688 yards and 41 touchdowns.

Stroud is the only Buckeye player to be named a Heisman finalist twice since the award committee began inviting more than just the winner to the New York ceremony in 1982. He placed third in voting this season and fourth last season. NFL scouts believe he has the potential to become a star in the league and could end up as one of the top picks in the draft.

Additionally, Stroud was named the Big Ten’s offensive player and quarterback of the year the last two seasons. However, he was also part of OSU teams that went 0-2 against Michigan and did not make a national championship game in back-to-back seasons.

“People are going to say I never won ‘The Game,’ and I understand. People are going to say I never won a Big Ten championship, and I understand,” Stroud said after OSU’s 45-23 loss to Michigan. “I don’t think one game defines us.”

Bryce Young, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson are the other quarterbacks being considered by teams with high draft picks. Many experts are pointing to Young to be the first quarterback taken in the draft with Stroud in the mix as well.

An Ohio State player has not been selected first overall since offensive tackle Orlando Pace was the No. 1 pick in the 1997 NFL Draft. The Chicago Bears, home of former Buckeyes QB Justin Fields, have the top pick in April. The Houston Texans, believed to be in pursuit of a quarterback, pick second.