GAINESVILLE -- Former No. 1 overall recruit Ronald Powell opted to forgo his final year of eligibility at Florida and will enter the 2014 NFL Draft, the school announced Monday.
"This hasn’t been an easy decision because this is a tough place to walk away from," Powell said in a release. "But really you never walk away from being a Gator. I never thought it would be this hard to make this decision -- most people think it’s easy -- go for the money. It’s hard to leave my brothers behind, but we’ve shared so much more than our time on the field. We’ve lived our lives together and we are truly a family. This place has so many memories that I will carry forever, and I will never forget my coaches, teammates, trainers, strength staff, professors and the entire support staff that helped me during my time here."
Powell -- Urban Meyer's premier recruit in UF's lauded 2010 class -- never reached fans' lofty expectations, as the athletic pass rushing linebacker/defensive end struggled with injuries, maturity and consistency during his time at Florida.
The redshirt junior, who tore his ACL twice in 2012 and missed the entire year, was frequently praised by coach Will Muschamp this past season for his improved attitude, leadership and overall development.
“Ronald has informed me that he has made a decision to declare for the NFL Draft,” Muschamp said in the statement. “This hasn’t been an easy decision for him. I talked to him several times over the Holidays, but it was important for him to come back and look me in the eye and tell me what he wanted to do and why he wanted to do it. It’s one of the great experiences as a coach to watch young players mature. It’s been well documented the hardships he has had to overcome and he has always kept a positive attitude."
Powell, a tweaner who projects as a stand-up linebacker at the next level, finished the 2013 season with 26 tackles, eight hurries, four sacks and seven tackles for loss as he constantly shifted between linebacker and end.
Powell was close to teammate Dominique Easley, a fellow 2010 hotshot prospect, who did not leave early last season and returned in 2013 only to tear his ACL before the fourth game of the year. With two major surgeries already, a third knee injury could derail Powell’s career and likely influenced his decision to turn pro.
“I want to thank the entire Gator Nation for making a kid from California a part of their family,” Powell said. “It’s hard to put into words what this whole experience has been for me. I’ve had so many opportunities and met so many people. All of them have been supportive and helpful in my time here. Because of that, I’ve had a chance to grow and mature into the man I am today and the man I am going to become in the future. …
"I wouldn’t trade anything I’ve experienced because they have all helped me grow. I will miss running out of the tunnel into The Swamp and all of the tradition and great rivalries. It has been an honor to be a part of Gator history and I will always represent The Gator Nation and bleed Orange and Blue. Thanks again to everyone and much love for The Gator Nation. Once a Gator, Always a Gator! Go Gators!”
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