FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Florida State cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who sat out the entire 2005 season after tearing his ACL, announced prior to Tuesday's Fed-Ex Orange Bowl that he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2006 NFL draft.
The news came in the pre-game press notes released by the team.
"I want to be able to help my family out," Cromartie said in the statement. "I've talked to my family and the coaches and I feel like this is the best decision."
A preseason first-team All-American, Cromartie was expected to anchor the Seminoles secondary and challenge for the Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back, in 2005. But during a voluntary off-season workout on July 12, he tore the ACL and MCL, as well as a hamstring tendon in his left leg.
"Like I've always said, I think you can make more money if you stay another year in school and work toward getting your diploma," Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden said. "But, if there are extenuating circumstances, then I will support the decision to enter the draft. Antonio is an outstanding athlete and there is no doubt that he has the ability to play in the NFL."
Cromartie graduated from Tallahassee Lincoln in 2003 as the USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year. He tied for the Florida State lead with four interceptions in 2004, returning two for touchdowns. He also averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return.
A typical recovery time from a torn ACL is nine months to a year -- especially for players at skill positions. Florida State doctors told Cromartie at the time of his late-July surgery that he faced nine months of rehabilitation. Nine months from his surgery would be April 22, yet Cromartie plans on being ready for the NFL combine in late February.
"My knee feels great and I have been working extremely hard to get myself ready to play again," Cromartie said. "My plan now is to continue to work and get ready for the combine and the other workouts. I feel like I am ready to play at the next level and that's what I'll have to be able to show the scouts and coaches in the next couple of months."
Cromartie is the first Seminole to leave early since receiver P.K. Sam declared after the 2003 season. Sam was a fifth-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2004.
At least two other Florida State players, running back Lorenzo
Booker and linebacker Ernie Sims, are also deciding if they'll
return for their senior seasons in Tallahassee or turn pro.
Wayne Drehs is a staff writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.