ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles arrived at UCF as a virtual unknown quarterback with modest expectations. Running back Storm Johnson was a transfer looking for a new start.
Both are heading to the NFL after leading to the Knights to the most successful campaign in program history.
The players announced Monday that they will skip their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft.
"After a lot of deliberations and talking with my parents, I've decided to try and pursue my goal to play in the NFL and capture my lifelong dream," Bortles said. "I just couldn't be more proud to say I played football at UCF, and it was the best four years of my life."
In his second year as the Knights' starter, Bortles helped UCF bounce back from a narrow early season loss to South Carolina to win end the season on a nine-game winning streak and upset win over heavily favored Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
Bortles was a constant throughout UCF's run to its first BCS bowl, helping the Knights survive in seven games decided by seven or few points. It included a 21-point comeback in an upset win over Louisville. The 12-1 record was a program best.
He finished 2013 passing for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns. The season followed a sophomore campaign in which he had 25 touchdowns and threw for more 3,059 yards.
Johnson transferred from Miami after his freshman season in 2010. After sitting out in 2011, he spent his first year at UCF in 2012 backing up Latavius Murray. He was then elevated to the starting job as a junior this season and finished with 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns.
"This was a tough journey for me and I'm just super proud to have the support of coach (George) O'Leary and the coaching staff," Johnson said. "It was a hard decision, but I had to make the best decision for me."
Both Bortles and Johnson sought ratings from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. Several analysts project Bortles as one of the top three quarterbacks available in the draft.
O'Leary said they were both pleased with how they were graded by the advisory board and by the feedback the coached got through inquiries from team executives he knows.
Both still have until Jan. 15 to pull their name from consideration.
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