Gonzalez to bypass senior season for NFL



The fleetfooted wide receiver has been advised that he'll be a second-round pick.
COLUMBUS (AP) -- Speedy wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, the second-leading receiver for Ohio State, said on Thursday that he will not return for his senior season and will enter the NFL draft.
"Obviously, it's the toughest thing I've ever had to do in my life," the 6-foot, 195-pounder said at an emotional news conference in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
He had asked an NFL committee to assess his draft standing and was told he was a second-round pick.
Two other Buckeyes are contemplating jumping to the NFL a year early. Tailback Antonio Pittman will announce his decision on Monday at his Akron high school. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. has not yet made up his mind, his father said on Thursday.
Barton staying
Another junior on offense, tackle Kirk Barton, said last month that he will remain for his final season.
Befitting a philosophy major, Gonzalez said he carefully weighed the pros and cons for leaving early and for staying.
"Basically, the best-case scenario of leaving would be maybe you sneak into the first round. The worst-case scenario, maybe you fall down some draft boards. Am I OK with the worst-case scenario there? Yes, I guess I am," he said.
The Cleveland native said if he stayed, he might just add to his catalog of great experiences. But there was some risk involved.
"The reality of the game of football is the worst-case scenario is I could show up the first day of spring ball and something terrible could happen and I may never be able to play this game and fulfill all the dreams that I wanted to," he said.
Top academic honor
An Academic All-American, Gonzalez was an All-Big Ten selection. He finished the season with 51 receptions for 734 yards and eight touchdowns -- all career highs.
Gonzalez is one of the most popular players on the roster. He is as well known for sleeping in an oxygen-depletion tent and his knack for cooking Cuban food as he is for his play on the field.
Gonzalez said the 41-14 loss on Monday to Florida in the national championship game did not affect his decision. He also said it did not matter whether other teammates in his class were coming back.
"It came down to whether I felt I was ready and whether this was the right thing to do," said Gonzalez, who had two catches -- half of Ohio State's meager total -- for 11 yards in the game in Glendale, Ariz.
Gonzalez finished his career with 87 catches for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns. He will be remembered by Buckeyes fans for his leaping catch in the final minutes at Michigan in 2005 that helped set up Pittman's go-ahead, 3-yard TD run with 24 seconds left.
Advice
Ohio State assistant head coach and receivers coach Darrell Hazell said it was difficult to counsel Gonzalez to leave because he was so fond of him.
"When you have a guy like that who you just absolutely fall in love with because he does things right all the time, it's hard," Hazell said. "It's hard because you want him to be around forever."
Yet Hazell said he advised Gonzalez to follow his heart and do what he thought was best.
Gonzalez fought his emotions several times while reading a lengthy prepared statement.
"I'm excited about it -- despite how I appear right now," he said. "I'm looking forward to becoming a working man in society."
His father, Eduardo, who played football at Michigan, said the family had never considered Anthony leaving early until the season built to a climax.
"When the letter came back [from the NFL] and it said first two rounds, he said, 'Oh, my God. It's tough to stick around, you know?' " Eduardo said.
The four juniors filed the paperwork at the urging of head coach Jim Tressel after the regular season to have their draft status evaluated by an NFL committee. Soon after that, Gonzalez disclosed that he had no intention of leaving and was trying to keep his options open.
"What I want to do is come back, that's for sure," Gonzalez said at the time. "That's easy, because it's fun here. The vast majority of the people I know in the NFL are miserable."

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