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Receiver Brandon Smith declares for NFL Draft as Iowa's bowl game in doubt again

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central
Brandon Smith made a number of highlight-reel catches for the Hawkeyes in his four-year career.

Iowa wide receiver Brandon Smith has declared for the NFL Draft, meaning he wouldn’t play in Wednesday’s TransPerfect Music City Bowl — which suddenly was in doubt again Sunday, but this time (reportedly) over opponent Missouri’s COVID-19 issues.

The 5-5 Tigers were “highly, highly doubtful” to play in the bowl game against 6-2 Iowa at Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, according to a Sunday-afternoon story from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. According to the article, the spike was associated with Missouri’s Dec. 19 game against Mississippi State and Sunday’s practice was canceled. Missouri players had been sent home for a short holiday break by coach Eli Drinkwitz, and they returned to campus Saturday and were intending to travel to Nashville on Monday.

The Iowa football program, meanwhile, returned to their facility on Saturday for its first practice since Dec. 15. The team had announced a pause in-person activities on Monday due to COVID-19 issues within its program, but the resumption of practice was an encouraging sign on the Hawkeyes' end that the Music City Bowl could be played. The Hawkeyes practiced again Sunday, but now they're unlikely to have the prep work pay off

Meantime, Smith was joining fellow senior wideout Ihmir Smith-Marsette in saying his final game was Iowa’s 28-7 win against Wisconsin on Dec. 12. Smith caught three balls for 30 yards in that game, as well as a two-point conversion.

Smith thanked head coach Kirk Ferentz and assistant coach Kelvin Bell, a fellow Mississippi native who discovered him while on a visit home to his mother, for their roles in his development on and off the field.

“2020 has been a difficult year for so many and I would not have gotten through it without my brothers on the field,” Smith said in a social-media post. “We are more than teammates. We are family. Thank you, Hawkeye Nation, for everything. I promise to make you proud as I continue my career in the NFL.”

Smith finished his Iowa career with 91 receptions for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns.