No Big Surprise That Andre Is Leaving

There is new disappointment among Alabama football fans today. A Montgomery law firm confirmed what everyone expected, that All-America offensive tackle Andre Smith is leaving Bama for professional football. There was only faint hope that Smith would return, particularly after he was suspended for what would have been his final game, the Sugar Bowl contest against Utah on Friday.

Alabama's Andre Smith had won just about every honor an offensive lineman could expect, going back to his days as a prep All-America at Huffman High School (where he was Scout's number one offensive line prospect) through his junior year at Bama as the Outland Trophy winner.

A few days before Alabama's appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Utah, Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban announced that Smith had been suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Many, including normally responsible news outlets, leapt to the reasonable conclusion that Smith had some level of contact with an agent. Alabama's attorney general, Troy King, even blustered into the fray.

Now, according to reports published Sunday, that didn't happen.

Louis Gillis, an attorney with the firm of Thomas, Means, Gillis & Seay, was quoted as telling Montgomery television station WSFA that "Smith did not talk to an agent prior to the Sugar Bowl and has not hired an agent."

That is moot considering the more important announcement from Thomas, Means, Gillis & Seay Saturday night.

As reported by the Tuscaloosa News, the statement said, "Through much prayer and after counseling with his parents and his coach, University of Alabama offensive lineman and All-American Andre Smith today said he has decided to forgo his last year of collegiate football eligibility. The Outland Trophy winner said, 'I value deeply the opportunity I've had to play for such a prestigious program and to have the support of such a prolific coach in Nick Saban. After much consideration, I am proud to announce my intent to become eligible for the next National Football League draft. Alabama football will always hold a special place in my heart.'"

Smith has been projected by draft analysts as one of the top prospects for this year's NFL draft.

In comments prior to the Sugar Bowl regarding Smith, Saban was reminiscent of the evangelist saying "Hate the sin, love the sinner." Saban was very, very complimentary of Smith as a player and a person, offered continuing support for Smith in the future, and also offered a sliver of hope that Smith might return. Saban was also animated in his discussion of a player who did not show good judgment and adhere to the rules, thus missing the opportunity to play in the final football game of the 2008 season.

Smith's absence from the game was notable as Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson was sacked eight times and intercepted twice when under pressure as Bama was blasted, 31-17, by Utah to finish at 12-2.

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