"After getting word back from the NFL and the success I had on the field, I decided that this was a great timeto fulfill a life long dream of playing in the NFL," Shelton said. "I'm extremely grateful to the University of Louisville and coach Petrino for giving me an opportunity to play, but I feel I'm ready to take my game to the next level."
Shelton, who led Louisville in rushing with 938 yards and established a school-record with 20 rushing touchdowns this season, becomes just the fourth underclassman from U of L who has entered the draft early. Defensive ends Joe Johnson, Michael Josiah and Dewayne White also by-passed their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft early.
"After I received positive feedback from the NFL, I told Eric that he had my support of pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL," U of L coach Bobby Petrino said. "Eric's been a tremendous player on the field and an even better student in the classroom. I know he'll be successful in the NFL and I wish him all the luck in the world."
Though Shelton couldn't divulge what the NFL Advisory Board has told him about his draft status, Shelton said he would not have made the decision to enter the draft early had he not relatively certain to be taken in the first three tounds.
"It's a dream come true," Shelton said. "I think I'm an every down back who can deliver a pounding. And I'm very durable."
Asked how he wished to remembered by U of L fans, Shelton said, "As a fan's player. I play for the Lord first and for myself and the fans next. U of L fans showed me a lot of love and I would love to come back here in the future for any reason to help."
Shelton, who said he has not hired an agent but will do so in the next few weeks, now will begin preparing for the NFL combines. And though there will likely be several running backs who will enter the combines with more national hype than will Shelton, the Lexington, KY native is confident that he make a good showing.
"I feel like I'll surprise a lot of people," Shelton said.