Florida QB Grossman decides to enter NFL draft

Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 2:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 2:52 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida quarterback Rex Grossman will skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

"He has definitely made the decision to leave Florida," the player's mother, Maureen Grossman, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Grossman finished the season with 3,402 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, a far cry from the 3,896 yards and 34 TDs he threw for in 2001 when he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy in Steve Spurrier's last season at Florida.

Grossman struggled in the offense designed by Spurrier's replacement, Ron Zook, but never complained. Despite Florida's struggles _ the Gators finished 8-5 _ Grossman said as recently as the Outback Bowl on Wednesday that he was having a hard time in deciding his future.

"It's a life change," he said after the game. "Whether to stay in college or go ahead and be a professional. There's a lot of things to consider, and I don't need to rush into anything. I honestly haven't made up my mind."

Grossman, who was not immediately available for comment, decided to enter the draft while on a vacation with his family.

"It was a tough decision," Maureen Grossman said.

When Spurrier suddenly departed after Grossman's sensational 2001 season, the quarterback considered leaving, too. NFL officials told him he would be a first- or second-round pick and Grossman nearly left.

But Zook swooped in and talked Grossman into staying, telling the quarterback he would have a chance to win the Heisman Trophy under the new offense he and new coordinator Ed Zaunbrecher were designing.

By September, however, those hopes were dashed, when Grossman threw for 191 yards and two interceptions in a 41-16 loss to Miami. Things got worse a month later with a pair of four-interception games in losses to Ole Miss and LSU.

At the time, there was evidence Grossman was calling audibles for plays he ran under Spurrier's old system. Zook had to take back some of Grossman's flexibility on the field.

The performances got better, but Grossman took a beating and wasn't nearly as explosive as he was the year before. Part of it was because, compared to past years, he had a leaky line and a less-effective receiving corps. Part of it might have simply been from a loss of confidence.

Last week, Zook said he didn't know what Grossman wanted to do, but he sounded like a man who knew something needed to change in the coach-quarterback relationship.

"I only want Rex back here if he wants to be back here," Zook said. "And I've told him, 'Rex, if you come back, it's on my terms and not your terms.'"

With Grossman gone, the Gators have a wide-open race at quarterback next season. And for the first time in a long time, none of the candidates have much experience.

One top candidate is redshirt freshman Ingle Martin, a Parade All-American who made news this year when he played some at receiver and also took over punting duties for the Gators. Another is freshman Gavin Dickey, another Parade All-American whom Zook is said to be enamored with because of his mobility and strong arm.

Grossman joins defensive lineman Ian Scott as the second Florida underclassman to announce for the NFL draft.

The consensus among NFL scouts is that despite his subpar season, Grossman was not damaged too badly by his decision to stay, and should be picked no lower than the third round of the April draft.

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