Mayo picks pros over UT

As expected, Tennessee junior linebacker Jerod Mayo announced Wednesday that he would forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

Mayo, a first-team All-SEC selection, led the Vols with 140 tackles, 60 in the last four games. He is projected by the NFL advisory board to be a late second- or third-round draft choice.

``My experience at Tennessee has been a roller coaster ride, but I wouldn't change a thing if I could,'' Mayo said at a press conference. ``I was blessed to be in a situation to make a decision to go or stay.''

Before the Outback Bowl, Jerod Mayo said he probably would return to Tennessee, unless he was projected as a first-round pick. Did the projection make his decision difficult?

``No matter what the projection, it was a tough decision,'' said Mayo, a fourth-year player who already has his degree. ``This is my family.''

Mayo said having his degree was a factor.

``Getting a degree was my ultimate goal,'' he said. ``I'm ready to start a new chapter.''

Mayo, who redshirted in 2004 and suffered a season-ending knee injury halfway through the 2005 season, said a potential injury was not a factor in his decision.

Mayo said one of his goals is to enhance his stock during pre-draft workouts and hopefully become a first-round pick.

``The ultimate goal is to go as high as possible,'' said Mayo, who is 6-2, 235 pounds and can play outside or inside linebacker. He said his versatility should help his stock. He also said he would play wherever an NFL team wants him to – just like during his career at Tennessee.

Tennessee defensive coordinator John Chavis, who has coached such successful NFL linebackers as Al Wilson, Raynoch Thompson, Eric Westmoreland and Omar Gaither, said he is convinced Mayo will be a successful pro player.

``He will do well, no doubt,'' Chavis said.

Mayo made 60 tackles in the last four games, prompting Chavis to say he was playing about as well as any linebacker he's coached at Tennessee.

Fulmer felt the same way.

``He had a fantastic year, just a great year,'' Fulmer said of Mayo. ``When people around him started playing more consistent, his game went up.''

Ellix Wilson, who started the Outback Bowl, is in line to replace Mayo at inside linebacker. The outside linebacker candidates are Rico McCoy, Nevin McKenzie and Dorian Davis along with Savion Frazier.

Mayo was the only UT player to attend the press conference. Running back Arian Foster, projected as a second-round pick, offensive lineman Anthony Parker, a fourth-round projection, and punter Britton Colquitt, who got a seventh-round grade, are expected to talk to the media Thursday.

Parker is expected to return. Foster is said to still be deliberating. Colquitt will return, his father, Craig Colquitt, said Monday.

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