Pitt star tailback LeSean McCoy will forgo his final two seasons of college football to enter the NFL Draft, formally announcing his decision in a statement released by the university’s athletic department.
McCoy’s decision to turn professional was first reported Thursday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. After an emotional meeting with Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt Friday afternoon at Pitt’s Duratz Athletic Complex on the South Side, McCoy delayed his announcement through the weekend.
Underclassmen have until Thursday to apply for special eligibility to the draft and, in doing so, renounce their remaining eligibility.
“When I signed with Pitt out of prep school, I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew in my heart that God had given me a second chance,” McCoy said. “As a result of a season-ending injury my senior year, I learned a humbling lesson. Nothing is promised to us and it can all be taken away in a moment. “During my two years at Pitt, I have received an overwhelming amount of love and acceptance, starting from my first visit to the university all the way through the end of this season. I have been treated with respect, class and consideration. For that I am incredibly grateful.
“Recently there has been a lot of speculation regarding my decision to either stay in school or enter the NFL Draft. 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 forego my junior season at the University of Pittsburgh to enter the NFL Draft.
“I will always cherish the opportunity Pitt has given me. I wore (No.) 25 with pride and tried to represent my coaches, teammates, staff and Panther fans with class. I would like to thank everyone involved with the Pitt football program for a wonderful two years in Pittsburgh.
“On a personal note to Coach Wannstedt: Thank you for your support, guidance and counsel. I take a part of you with me. Although I will be wearing a new jersey next season, I will forever be a Pitt Panther.
“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. 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. Hail to Pitt!”
McCoy, a sophomore, is eligible under an NFL rule that requires early-entry applicants to be three years removed from the graduation of their high school class. He left Harrisburg’s Bishop McDevitt High midway through his senior year and spent three semesters at Milford Academy prep school.
McCoy becomes the 10th Pitt player to enter the NFL Draft with eligibility remaining since 1990, and joins former All-America receiver Larry Fitzgerald as the only other player to do so after his sophomore season. Like McCoy, Fitzgerald spent three semesters at a prep school before enrolling at Pitt. He was drafted third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2004.
The 6-foot, 205-pound McCoy became Pitt’s first back-to-back 1,000-yard rusher since Curvin Richards in 1988-89, finishing with 1,488 yards and 21 touchdowns on 308 carries in 2008. He had six 100-yard rushing games and accounted for 100 or more all-purpose yards in 10 of Pitt’s 13 games. He also was second on the team with 32 receptions for 305 yards.
McCoy’s 2,816 rushing yards and 36 touchdowns are the most by a Pitt player over his freshman and sophomore seasons, breaking the marks set by Tony Dorsett (2,690, 1973-74) and Fitzgerald (34, 2002-03), respectively.
“Four years ago, I had the opportunity to watch a recruiting tape of a Harrisburg kid named LeSean McCoy,” Wannstedt said in a statement. “His tremendous talent was evident from the very first viewing and I said to our staff ‘We have to get him to Pitt.’
“Of course, LeSean did end up at Pitt, a decision that has been a wonderful benefit to him, our football program and university. When you have exceptionally gifted players, you realize the NFL can be a reality sooner rather than later. Certainly that is the case with LeSean and we worked to make sure he had all the information needed to make the best decision about his pro prospects.
“LeSean ultimately has decided to enter the draft. While he had said earlier he would be returning to Pitt, I think during the past two weeks he finally had an opportunity to reflect on his opportunities. 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.”