Gators' Fason opts for NFL

The junior tailback sparked the Florida offense and led the SEC in rushing yardage this season.


Ciatrick Fason breaks a tackle at the 2004 UF-FSU game.

Sun file photo
Published: Thursday, December 16, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 16, 2004 at 12:49 a.m.

Tailback Ciatrick Fason will follow his breakout year at Florida by breaking away to the NFL a year early.

Fason, a junior from Jacksonville who led the SEC in rushing this season, declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday, the school announced.

Fason is married and has two young children. After almost quitting the team early last season because of a lack of playing time, he rushed for 1,783 yards and 10 touchdowns and was second in the SEC with 127.2 all purpose yards per game in 2004.

"The University of Florida has always been special to me and I would like to thank everyone for making it a great experience," Fason said in a statement released by UF. "I remember coming to Florida on my recruiting visit and having tears in my eyes the first time I came into The Swamp.

"It was a decision that was on my mind the entire season, but I did not let it become a distraction. Instead, it made me work even harder. The choice came down to a decision I had to make for my wife and our two children. I believe the program is in great shape and that Gator fans should be excited about the future. I intend to complete my education down the road."

Fason said before the season that if he had a breakout year chances were good he'd leave early for the NFL.

Going into the Louisiana State game a year ago, Fason had to be talked out of quitting by UF coach Ron Zook. Fason stayed and distanced himself from the other tailbacks in the preseason and became the featured back this season.

Fason met with new UF coach Urban Meyer last week and Meyer said he would wish the tailback good luck if he projects to be taken in the first two rounds of the draft.

Fason's departure will make the tailback position wide open heading into the spring. Juniors DeShawn Wynn and Skyler Thornton are expected to battle redshirt freshman Markus Manson for the starting role.

Wynn shared playing time with Fason and rushed for 540 yards and seven touchdowns in 2003, but saw only limited playing time this season.

You can reach Robbie Andreu at andreur@gvillesun.com or by calling (352) 374-5022.

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