MINNEAPOLIS — Rashod Bateman has decided to move on again.
The reigning Big Ten receiver of the year said Wednesday with new COVID-19 concerns “that it made the most sense to being to focus on the next stage of my career.”
The Gophers star had initially opted out of the 2020 season to focus on his NFL prospects, where he’s a projected first-round pick, but he then reversed course and played in Minnesota’s first five games.
Bateman said the latest decision to stop playing this season came after further discussions with head coach P.J. Fleck and his family, with consideration of the program’s recent COVID-19 outbreak that forced the cancelation of Saturday’s game against Wisconsin.
“Minnesota has changed me forever and the lessons I learned in the Row The Boat culture will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Bateman said in a statement. “There is no better coach to play for in the nation than Coach Fleck, and I appreciate everything he has done for me. I can’t thank my coaches enough for always supporting me and for always pushing me to change my best each day.
“… I am excited for everything I can, and will do to be a positive influence in this community that has welcomed me with open arms. None of it goes unnoticed. I know I have a ton to be thankful for, and I wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Holiday.”
Fleck said he and Bateman talked Wednesday. “I fully support him as he pursues his dream and I want to thank him for everything he gave to our program, university and state,” he said in a statement. “It was a joy to watch Rashod develop into an All-American receiver on the field and a strong, positive advice for social change off of it. He is one of the best to ever represent Minnesota.”
As a junior, Rashod Bateman was sixth all-time in receptions (147) and sixth in yards (2,395) and fifth in touchdowns (19) across 31 career games. He caught a pass in every game played and set a handful of freshman and sophomore program records.
He had 36 receptions for 472 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season.
Without Bateman, the Gophers new No. 1 receiver is Chris Autman-Bell, who has 14 receptions for 315 yards and one touchdown. True freshman Daniel Jackson moves up the depth chart, too. He has 5 grabs for 57 yards. No other Gophers receiver has more than one catch this year.