Clemson's defensive line will go down as one of the best defensive lines in college football. Clelin Ferrell (99), Christian Wilkins (42), Dexter Lawrence and Austin Bryant are also all best friends now. Gwinn Davis / Special to The Post and Courier

CLEMSON — Clelin Ferrell, the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year and Clemson's record holder for most career starts by a defensive end/outside linebacker, is officially moving on from the Tigers' program. 

The standout defensive lineman announced via his personal Twitter page Thursday night that he is headed to the 2019 NFL Draft, a move that comes as no surprise given his position as a certain first-rounder. 

Ferrell shocked the college football world a season ago when he chose to forego the 2018 NFL Draft and return to Clemson to both win a national championship and improve his draft stock. 

Now that he has done both, it is time to move on. 

"Dear Clemson Family, for those who know me, understand how hard it is for me to write a letter like this because it means the coming to an end of a truly life-changing experience to be at my second home the last 3-and-a-half years. My love for this team, program and school is everlasting and the memories it has given me will forever hold a special place in my heart," Ferrell wrote in an open letter. 

"It all started with Coach (Brent) Venables and my former coach, Marion Hobby. They’re the reason I came to Clemson, and every day I stepped on the field I wanted to prove myself to them because I know they expected great things from me. Coach (Dabo) Swinney, he is the reason I say Clemson is where I 'needed' to be and not where I 'wanted' to be. The love he has for his players is unmatched and he taught me about having a vision for my life and where to build my foundation, which is in Christ, and that’s why he is so important to my success. Also Coach (Todd) Bates and Coach (Lemanski Hall), y’all gave me some of my best memories at Clemson. I’ve told you both the love I’ve got for y’all and I know y’all have got my back through anything. 

"To my mother and family, you have been my backbone throughout my life and I’ve only wanted to make you proud. You have given me everything I needed to be successful even when you couldn’t get it for yourself and I will continue to be my best for you. 

"And to the Clemson Family, you all are the best fans in the world and you are the reason why this decision is so hard, because the people here are what make it so special. I am blessed to have been a part of this family. Lastly, to my teammates —to my brothers — I can honestly say my love for y’all is deeper than football and I will always cherish the time we have and will continue to spend together, as my kids will call y’all 'Uncle' one day.

"With that being said, I am excited to announce that I will be declaring for the NFL Draft this year and will continue to chase my dream of being the best me I can be." 

Ferrell led Clemson's 2018 team in both tackles for loss with 19.5 and sacks with 11.5. 

When the Tigers won the national championship Monday night, Ferrell celebrated with his fellow defensive linemen, a group of four starters who are best friends off the field and who ultimately decided to stay together for one final ride alongside junior defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, who is also moving on to the draft. 

In the always-cerebral Ferrell, his future team is getting an elite pass rusher who is both physically gifted and mentally prepared for what it takes to excel at the highest level. As a person, he conducts himself with poise on a daily basis. As a player, he also stops the run well and plays with an extreme attention to detail Venables demands on a daily basis. 

"I play the pass very well and I feel like I can drop into coverages well and I wouldn't say that came with me, you know, working on those things. I kind of was just thrown in those position through Coach Venables and our defense, how multiple we are and he forced me to really learn those things and I had to take on that mindset of, I can do any of this stuff," Ferrell said. 

"I've really got to focus and try to get better at it and that's what I feel like over the course of my career that I've done. Hats off to him and everybody that's put in those positions to get and become the player that I am. I feel that's what sets me apart, just how versatile I am and my mindset, as well."  

Follow Grace Raynor on Twitter @gmraynor

Grace is the Post and Courier's Clemson reporter. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a degree in journalism.