All-American Washington State defensive tackle Hercules Mata’afa departs for NFL

Washington State Cougars defensive lineman Hercules Mata'afa, right, (50) reacts after he sacked Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Kaymen Cureton in a Septemeber game. Mata’afa announced he will enter the 2018 NFL Draft. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The Cougars got three outstanding seasons from Hercules Mata’afa, but there won’t be a fourth.

The junior defensive tackle announced on Twitter Sunday he’ll skip his senior season at Washington State and get an early start on his professional career, entering the 2018 NFL Draft.

“I would like to thank the entire Coug Nation for all the love and support you’ve shown me throughout my four years of college, I’ve decided to forego my senior year to enter the 2018 NFL Draft and pursue the dream I’ve had since I was a kid,” Mata’afa wrote. “I have had an incredible journey at WSU and I couldn’t be more grateful for the coaches, teammates, fans, friends, community and family who have helped me along the way.”

Mata’afa signed off: “I will always be a Coug at heart.”

The Lahaina, Hawaii, native leaves WSU as the most decorated defensive lineman in more than a decade and heads into the pro ranks on the heels of a dominant season that concluded with his name atop the Pac-12 charts for both sacks (10.5) and tackles-for-loss (22.5).

Mata’afa was an All-American for the first time in his career this season, earning the honor from three of the five organizations that hand out the honor: Walter Camp Foundation, Associated Press and Sporting News. That made the dominant pass-rusher WSU’s first consensus All-American since 2002.