Harvin going pro, Spikes is staying

Middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is staying at Florida, while wide receiver Percy Harvin will enter the NFL Draft.

Staff photographs
Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 12:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 15, 2009 at 3:41 p.m.

One is staying, one is going.

That was the big news out of the University of Florida on Thursday. Junior middle linebacker Brandon Spikes announced he is returning for his senior season, while star junior wide receiver Percy Harvin announced he is entering the NFL Draft, where he is expected to be taken by the middle of the first round.

Harvin announced his decision after meeting with UF coach Urban Meyer on Thursday afternoon. His departure was expected.

"I will have a lot of great memories from my time at Florida, but the championships we won in 2006 and 2008 will be at the top of my list," Harvin said in a statement released by UF. "When it is all said and done, I want to win; I wanted to be part of championship teams. We did that at Florida and I had a great group of coaches, teammates, and medical and strength staff that helped make that happen.

"I will always be a Gator and look forward to watching them play next year on Saturdays."

Many are projecting Harvin to be among the top 25 players taken in the draft. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has compared Harvin to former USC star Reggie Bush, the second overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

Harvin's last game was one of his best at Florida. He rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown and caught five passes for 49 yards in the Gators' 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in the BCS Championship Game last week. He also set up a tie-breaking field goal with a 52-yard run in the fourth quarter.

"Percy is the most dynamic player I've ever coached, and can change the game on any given play," Meyer said. "He has the best first step I've ever seen and his ability to plant his foot and go is unmatched. We wish him the best of luck and we look forward to having him around our program. He will always be a part of our Gator football family."

Spikes, a first-team All-America in 2008, was not ready to leave that family, despite being projected as a likely second-round pick.

"It was a tough decision for me and my family," Spikes said. "I just felt like it was the right choice to come back. I love the coaching staff and my teammates, and I look forward to playing another year in front of the best fans in America."

Spikes led the Gators in tackles this season with 94. He also intercepted four passes, returning two for touchdowns, and had two sacks and eight tackles for losses.

Spikes' decision to stay means the Gators will return all 11 starters on a defense that ranked in the top five nationally and limited Oklahoma's high-powered attack to 14 points in the national title game.

"I'm excited to hear that Brandon is coming back," Meyer said. "At the end of the day, I want our players to make educated decisions about their future. Brandon has obviously done that.

"He was the heart and soul of our defense this year. He was the quarterback of our defense and set the tone in many of our victories."

Underclassmen who have declared for the draft have 72 hours from the deadline (Thursday at midnight) to withdraw their name.

Two other UF underclassmen who filed paperwork with the NFL return specialist Brandon James and defensive end Jermaine Cunningham - are returning for their senior season as expected.

As for Harvin, he finishes his UF career as one of the most productive offensive players in school history. For his career, he caught 133 passes for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,852 yards and 19 touchdowns. His 32 career touchdowns are the most ever by a UF wide receiver. He scored a touchdown in each of his last 15 games.

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