Minnesota wide receiver Seth Green (17) smiles at wide receiver Rashod Bateman (0) after Green scored a touchdown during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Purdue, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman announced on Wednesday that he is ending his college career early to focus on preparation for the NFL draft.

Bateman wrote on Twitter that after the most recent COVID-19 breakout at Minnesota and the cancellation of the school’s game against Wisconsin, he discussed his future with his family and coach P.J. Fleck, and they thought it was in Bateman’s best interest to move on to the next stage of his career.

“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 wrote. “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.”

Minnesota paused team activities this week and canceled the Wisconsin game after nine student-athletes and six staff members tested positive for COVID-19 in the past six days. Minnesota announced Wednesday that three additional players and seven more staff members have tested positive.

Fleck released a statement saying he and Bateman spoke on Wednesday and Fleck fully supports Bateman’s decision to pursue his dream.

“I was a joy to watch Rashod develop into an All-American receiver on the field and a strong, positive advocate for social change off of it. He is one of the best to ever represent Minnesota,” Fleck said. “My job has always been about educating, teaching and helping our players live their dreams, and our program will always support a teammate who makes a decision that he feels is best for him and his family.”

Bateman, who is the No. 25 prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board and Kiper’s No. 6 wide receiver, had initially opted out of the season when the Big Ten postponed the season in August. Bateman opted back into the season in September.

He leads the team this season in receiving yards (472) and receiving touchdowns (2). Bateman was second on the team in receiving last season with 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns, behind Tyler Johnson, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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