West Virginia junior running back Steve Slaton said Sunday he will enter the NFL draft.
"I just told my coaches," an emotional Slaton said. "This is hard for me. But my coaches that knew me best have left. And now it's time for me to leave."
In the school-issued statement, new Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart said his conversation
with Slaton was "very private and heart-warming," and will remain
"I believe every student athlete, male or female, should
pursue, exhaust and complete their eligibility and academic
requirements for graduation at their institution. With that being
said, if someone can be financially secure with a large signing
bonus, I understand that decision," Stewart said.
Slaton said he was projected by the NFL advisory committee as a second-round pick.
"Some guys think I'm a step slow," Slaton said. "So I have to show at the combine that I'm not."
Slaton said he wasn't able to consult with former West Virginia and current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez on the decision, but he did speak with his former position coach, Calvin Magee.
"It's a good decision for me now, because I'm a versatile back," Slaton said. "As versatile as any back. I can play running back, wide receiver, kick returner. This was hard for me, but it's my time now to go."
After setting West Virginia's school record with 1,733 yards
rushing in 2006, Slaton ran for 1,051 yards in 2007 to
surpass 1,000 yards for the third straight year. He also matched his career-high with 17 touchdowns in 2007.
Slaton said that he loved his time as a Mountaineer.
"There wasn't a place that I would rather be because my
teammates, coaches and fans have always supported me," he said.
"It was a great feeling knowing that the fans supported me whether
we won or even when we lost.
"We won a lot of games during my time here at West Virginia,
and I have made a lot of great friends and have a lot of good
memories. I wish the players and coaches nothing but the best in
Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.