Texas' Thomas leaves school early

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas All-America safety Earl Thomas is leaving school after his sophomore season to enter the NFL draft.

Thomas announced his decision Friday night, nearly 24 hours after Texas lost to Alabama 37-21 in the BCS championship game.

Thomas, a Thorpe Award finalist, set a Texas record with eight interceptions this season.

"It was a tough decision because we're like brothers here," Thomas said in a statement released by Texas. "The last two years the team has done great. We got to play in a lot of big-time games, won a Big 12 championship and just got done playing for the national championship. I think all of those experiences have helped prepare me for the next level."

A hard hitter with a knack for interceptions, Thomas started all 27 games of his college career, finishing with 149 tackles, and 10 interceptions. His two interception returns for touchdowns this season also set a school record.

"We appreciate everything Earl has done for Texas and want to wish him all of the best," Texas coach Mack Brown said. "He has been a great player for us and more importantly a tremendous person, student and representative of our program. We thank him, support him and look forward to following his career in the NFL."

Texas players leaving early was unheard until Vince Young went to the NFL after leading the Longhorns to the 2005 national championship as a junior. After the 2007 season, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Jermichael Finley both bolted to the NFL.