Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells announced Thursday that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
A second-team All-Big Ten selection this season, Wells ranks fourth on Ohio State's career rushing list (3,382 yards). He's widely projected to be one of the first two running backs selected in April's draft, along with Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, who declared Wednesday.
"I want to thank my teammates, my coaches, my teachers and the academic advisors for all they have done, and I definitely want to thank the Buckeye fans for all their support," Wells said in a statement. "Ohio State has become like a family to me, and it will always be that way. But in the best interest of my family, it's time to move on and take a chance at fulfilling my lifetime dream of playing in the NFL."
Wells entered the season as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy but sustained a right foot/toe injury in the third quarter of the season opener against Youngstown State. He missed three games, including Ohio State's loss to USC, before returning for the final nine contests.
The 6-1, 237-pound Wells currently ranks sixth nationally in rushing average (119.7 ypg) after finishing 11th last season. He has battled injuries throughout his career and left Monday's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl loss to Texas with a concussion early in the fourth quarter.
Wells left the door open for a return last week, saying "I personally feel like I haven't done enough at Ohio State." But his jump to the pros was widely anticipated and endorsed by head coach Jim Tressel last month.
"Ohio State football will miss Beanie's big runs, but we will also miss his big smile," Tressel said in a statement. "He has been a tremendous teammate and one of the all-time great performers in the greatest rivalry in college football."
Wells had 412 rushing yards and four touchdowns in three career games against Ohio State's archrival Michigan.
He will spend next week training for the NFL combine at D1 Sports Training in Nashville, which is co-owned by Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.
One of Wells' advisers contacted D1 Sports president and CEO Will Bartholomew on Thursday morning about having the running back train there, according to corporate public relations director Matt Toy.
Adam Rittenberg covers the Big Ten for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org