Harvin Jumps To NFL, Spikes Returns To Florida
Jan. 15, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) - Florida star Percy Harvin is taking his speed, elusiveness and durability concerns to the NFL.
The junior playmaker said Thursday he is leaving school early to turn pro, but Gators linebacker Brandon Spikes will return for his senior season.
Both players announced their intentions hours before the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.
Even without Harvin, the Gators likely will be the preseason favorite to win a third national championship in four years. But there's little doubt Florida will miss its do-it-all receiver.
A 5-foot-11, 195-pound dynamo from Virginia Beach, Va., Harvin led the team in receiving and was second in rushing. He caught 40 passes for 644 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for 660 yards and 10 scores.
He missed five games in three years because of injury and was limited in several more, an issue that could keep him from being a top 10 pick in April.
When healthy, though, Harvin looked like the fastest - maybe even the most talented - player on the field. He scored at least once in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation, and burned defenses while lining up at receiver, running back and even quarterback.
"Percy is the most dynamic player I've ever coached and can change the game on any given play," Gators coach Urban Meyer said. "He has the best first step I've ever seen and his ability to plant his foot and go is unmatched. Percy is a relentless competitor who wants to win. We wish him the best of luck and we look forward to having him around our program."
Harvin finished his career with 133 receptions for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns, and 194 carries for 1,852 yards and 19 scores. He averaged 9.5 yards per carry and 11.6 yards every time he touched the ball.
He was at his best in big games, earning MVP honors in the 2006 Southeastern Conference championship game and totaling 171 yards and a touchdown in last week's 24-14 victory over Oklahoma in the Bowl Championship Series national title game in Miami.
"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," said Harvin, who has missed time because of hamstring and ankle injuries, a stress fracture and migraines. "When it is all said and done, I wanted to win. I wanted to be a 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."
With Spikes returning, the Gators will have their entire starting defense intact for the 2009 season. A 6-3, 245-pound junior from Shelby, N.C., Spikes led Florida with 93 tackles this season. The team captain also had eight sacks and four interceptions, prompting coaches and teammates to call him the heart and soul of the defense.
Although Spikes said last week he wanted to use NFL money to try to get a new trial for his incarcerated brother, he also said his return could be linked to quarterback Tim Tebow's decision. Tebow announced Sunday he would stay in school in hopes of leading the Gators to an undefeated season and another national title.
"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."