Haden declares for NFL Draft
Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 3:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 3:59 p.m.
There will be a Haden in the Florida secondary in the fall, but it won't be Joe.
Haden, a junior, announced Sunday that he is declaring for the NFL Draft. He decision is considered pretty much a no-brainer because most draft analysts project he will be among the overall top 10 players selected.
"This was a tough decision, and I spent a lot of time with my family talking about it," Haden said. "I'm so proud that I had the chance to be a Gator. It's been one of the best experiences of my life.
"Coach (Urban) Meyer and coach (Vance) Bedford have helped me in so many ways. I'll always be thankful to them for everything, and I know I'll never forget the fans in Gator Nation."
Haden came to UF from Ft. Washington, Md., as an offensive player, either a quarterback or wide receiver, but moved to cornerback before his true freshman season in 2007 and became an instant starter.
This past season, Haden emerged as one of the elite cornerbacks in the nation. He was a first-team All-America, first-team All-SEC and a finalist for the Thorpe Award. In 2009, he intercepted four passes, broke up 10 passes, forced two fumbles, had five tackles for loss and 68 total tackles.
"We're sad to see Joe go because he's a great leader and a dynamic player," interim UF coach Steve Addazio said. "But we know that with his tremendous talent, he will be a special player at the next level. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Joe, and we wish him nothing but the best."
Haden started 40 games and had eight interceptions in his UF career.
By going pro, Haden is passing up the opportunity to play with his younger brother Josh, an incoming true freshman who will have a chance to compete for playing time at cornerback next season in the UF secondary.
Haden's announcement is the first of what should be several for UF underclassmen in the next few days. As many as eight other juniors are considering an early exit to the NFL, including offensive linemen Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, tight end Aaron Hernandez, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, strong safety Ahmad Black and free safety Major Wright.
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