After days, even weeks, of sizing up the field ahead of him, LeSean McCoy made his move.
He's heading toward the NFL draft -- a choice that will put yardage between him and his days at Pitt after two seasons, and one whose result won't be known for some time.
"Recently, there has been a lot of speculation regarding my decision to either stay in school or enter the NFL draft," McCoy said in a statement yesterday. "I have frequently played both choices in my mind. I have considered my alternatives -- and I have prayed. I have made my final decision and will forgo my junior season at the University of Pittsburgh to enter the NFL draft."
The deadline for those who are three years removed from high school graduation to opt into the NFL draft is today. McCoy is eligible because he attended a prep school after playing for Bishop McDevitt High School in his native Harrisburg, Pa.
McCoy, who wrestled with his decision after initially insisting he intended to return, joins a healthy list of running backs eligible for the April 25-26 draft.
The College Football News/Scout.com ranking of running backs places McCoy third, behind junior Chris Wells of Ohio State and redshirt sophomore Knowshon Moreno of Georgia.
"There is a general rule out there that I utilize -- if you have the opportunity to go in the first round or early in the second, it's a lottery and you can't pass it up," Pittsburgh-based agent Ralph Cindrich said.
That's apparently exactly where McCoy, 5 feet 11 and 210 pounds, is projected to be drafted. Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has said the NFL draft advisory board and people he knows in the NFL have predicted that McCoy would be selected in the late first round or early second.
Although the contract terms and signing bonuses between those two general draft positions can be substantial, Cindrich said the real drop-off comes after the first handful of picks. He said the difference between the top five overall players selected and the top five taken in the second round "is a $20 million swing."
His place will be determined by which teams aim to draft a running back and by any movement up or down he makes in NFL evaluators' eyes during events such as Pitt's pro day and the annual NFL combine.
"What he does at the combine if he chooses to work out is what could make a difference, and I always think guys should go and work out," said Keith Kidd of Scouts Inc.
Despite being at Pitt just two seasons, McCoy takes with him an impressive set of credentials.
Coming off 2007, when he became the most prolific freshman running back at Pitt since Tony Dorsett, he had 308 carries for 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns, ranking second in the NCAA in scoring at 9.69 points a game and 10th with 114.46 rushing yards per game. He was a semifinalist for the Maxwell and Doak Walker awards.
"One of my goals in coming here was to help my teammates and coaches bring Pitt back to its rightful place among the prominent teams in college football," McCoy said. "We made big strides in that journey, and I believe coach Wannstedt, the coaching staff and my teammates will continue that upward climb next season and into the future."
The Panthers landed McCoy after his stock dropped after a leg injury during his senior season of high school.
"Four years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a recruiting tape of a Harrisburg kid named LeSean McCoy," Wannstedt said. "His tremendous talent was evident from the very first viewing and I said to our staff, 'We have to get him to Pitt.'"
It was a relationship McCoy walked away from somewhat reluctantly. Although he was leaning heavily toward turning pro late last week, he had second thoughts after he and his family came to Pittsburgh and McCoy had an emotional, 90-minute meeting with Wannstedt.
McCoy intended to take the weekend to finalize his decision but needed a few extra days.
Cindrich said it's crucial that McCoy, 20, be committed to his choice.
"That's an important factor," Cindrich said. "It's your comfort level. The maturity factor is a major factor. There's a LeBron James [who came out of high school to star in the NBA], and then there are a lot of busts."
Wannstedt seemed to think McCoy weighed his options carefully.
"I know firsthand how enticing the NFL can be for young men, both financially and from the standpoint of realizing a lifelong dream of playing pro football. I told LeSean he would always have our support and we wish him only the very, very best."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.