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Florida safety Keanu Neal to enter 2016 NFL Draft, per Instagram announcement

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The Gators' hardest hitter is leaving for the pros, he says.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida junior safety Keanu Neal will forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft, he announced via Instagram on Wednesday, calling his choice to do so "the hardest decision of my life."

A photo posted by Keanu Neal (@42problemz) on

Neal has earned a well-deserved reputation as a hard-hitter whose coverage lags behind his ability in run support, and his highlight reel of crushing blows would be a fine watch. But he was considered the less likely of Florida's two junior safeties to enter the 2016 NFL Draft, with Marcus Maye — rated as one of the nation's best safeties in coverage by Pro Football Focus — thought of as slightly more appealing to NFL eyes. It was also thought that Neal finishing his degree might sway him to stay for his senior season — but, as is true with anyone leaving early, making money for playing a sport professionally certainly doesn't preclude a player from returning to school and getting that degree.

Neal joins Vernon Hargreaves, Demarcus Robinson, and Kelvin Taylor among Florida players declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft early.

With Neal's departure, the last player among Florida's contingent of draft-eligible underclassmen still weighing a decision before the mid-January deadline to declare for the NFL Draft seems to be Maye. Jarrad Davis indicated after the SEC Championship Game that he would return for his senior season, while Caleb Brantley said in December he would be back for his redshirt junior year.