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Heyward-Bey to Enter NFL Draft

Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has decided to forgo his senior year of college and enter the NFL draft.

The announcement was not a surprise even though Heyward-Bey, one of the most prolific receivers in school history, declined to publicly reveal which way he had been leaning in recent weeks. Heyward-Bey called it a difficult decision but said he is ready for a “new chapter” in his life and feels confident with the feedback he and Coach Ralph Friedgen received from NFL personnel regarding his draft position.

“If it wasn’t positive feedback, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” said Heyward-Bey, who declined to elaborate on the opinions of NFL officials.

An all-American as a sophomore and a two-time all-ACC selection, Heyward-Bey ranks second in school history in career receiving yards (2,089), third in receptions (138) and tied for third in touchdown catches (13). This past season was his least productive in several statistical categories, but Friedgen noted Heyward-Bey’s work ethic and improvements he has made in route running and reading defenses.

“His intangibles are off the charts,” said Friedgen, calling Heyward-Bey one of the best receivers he has ever coached.

After Maryland’s victory in the Humanitarian Bowl on Dec. 30, Heyward-Bey consulted extensively with his mother, his aunt and Friedgen. He recently visited Friedgen’s home to talk to his coach about the decision for nearly four hours. By Saturday, he knew he would turn pro.

“He has my blessing,” Friedgen said.

During this past regular season, Heyward-Bey led the team and was ranked eighth in the ACC in receiving yards. He also ranked among the nation’s leaders in rushing by a wide receiver. His 76-yard reverse in the third quarter of the Sept. 27 game at Clemson swung momentum and help fuel Maryland’s come-from-behind 20-17 victory.

That game-changing play was Heyward-Bey’s only touch against Clemson. How Heyward-Bey was used in the offense was a topic discussed throughout the season because Maryland occasionally had a difficult time getting its most explosive receiver the ball. During the Oct. 4 loss at Virginia, Maryland went 57 minutes without attempting to throw Heyward-Bey a pass. Despite the occasional lack of touches, Heyward-Bey has declined to blame anyone and on one occasion apologized to teammates for his lack of production in a game.

Here is a story I wrote during the season about DHB’s lack of touches.

“I don’t think any of my years hurt me in any way,” Heyward-Bey said today. “I think I showed toughness this season by bouncing back when things weren’t going right.”

Heyward-Bey thanked Friedgen and offensive coordinator James Franklin, and he said he would miss teammates and fans. Heyward-Bey said he has not enrolled in classes for the spring semester so he can concentrate on training for the April draft. He has neither chosen an agent nor selected a place to train. He pledged to earn his degree sometime in the next few years.

Who else declares for the draft could affect where Heyward-Bey is selected. Two other standout wide receivers, North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks and Rutgers’ Kenny Britt, have already announced they would enter the draft. Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree has not yet made an official announcement.

“I have never really been into who else is coming out,” Heyward-Bey said. “I’m confident in my own ability.”

By Eric Prisbell  |  January 7, 2009; 2:52 PM ET
Categories:  Football  
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While I'm disappointed that DHB won't be back for his senior year, I'm not really surprised he decided to go pro, seeing that almost everyone, especially the media, was pushing him in that direction. I still think that there are aspects of his game he needed to work on before going pro, most notably working on shaking off the defenders and getting in the open. I certainly wish him the best.

Posted by: ecglotfelty | January 7, 2009 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Good luck "DHB". FREDTERP

Posted by: FREDTERP44 | January 7, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

I could see DHB with the Ravens and him and Flacco ending up in the HOF together if DHB continues to improve and lives up to his potential. Best wishes and God Speed DHB.

Posted by: Sideswiped | January 7, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I was holding out hope that his performance at the end of the season would convince him that he should come back for one more year of seasoning. I actually feel kinda sorry for him, because he very well might end up in the same boat as Erin Henderson, who thought he was sure-fire 1st day draftee and ended up going undrafted. I'm sure he will find a team in the NFL to eventually take him, either through the draft or free agency, I just wonder who is advising Maryland players on the professional prospects. Hey-Bey probably ranks somewhere between 5 and 10 for pure wide receivers, and since Matt Millen isn't running the Lions anymore, that means he probably won't get a sniff until the 3rd round.

Posted by: Russtinator | January 7, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Not sure he is really ready for the pros but I guess he was told he is. I was impressed by some of the young guys we still have. May not miss DHB too much.

Posted by: erniegogo | January 7, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Ernie and Russ can't even say Good Luck? Unreal. FREDTERP

Posted by: FREDTERP44 | January 7, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

i wish DHB all the best at the next level. i hope he continues to grow and a man and a player. my suspicion is that he cost himself some money by coming out now. one more year with a more seasoned QB might have made a significant difference in his draft standing.

Posted by: mdrockjock | January 7, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

I could see DHB with the Ravens and him and Flacco ending up in the HOF together if DHB continues to improve and lives up to his potential. Best wishes and God Speed DHB.

Posted by: Sideswiped | January 7, 2009 3:49 PM

WOW! Get real. That is a stretch to say the least.

Posted by: Rusty6392 | January 7, 2009 5:04 PM | Report abuse

My lone concern is the linebacker last year (HENDERSON) that was such the sure bet that ended up not being drafted at all.

DHB will make it but he did not have the season to warrant a 1st round pick. he might be late second or more than likely 3rd in my opinion.

Posted by: oknow1 | January 7, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

the erin henderson comparison is off. henderson was a huge injury risk - missed 2005 w an acl. plus he didnt run a great 40 in the combine even for a lb.

dhb isn't an injury risk and he'll run a ridiculous 40 in the combine. devin thomas ran a 4.4. and was drafted in the 2nd round. dhb can run in the 4.3 range. they are also about the same size.

Posted by: jnicol2 | January 7, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Man don't even talk about Henderson. That wass some straight garbage last year. Best of luck to DHB. MD wasn't using him I hope an NFL team does. He was never given a shot at running back kicks at MD, wonder if that is somethign he might do in the NFL...

Posted by: Lee26 | January 7, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

As a sophomore at Maryland, I have had the pleasure of watching and rooting for DHB the past 2 seasons, and it is because of him that I became so involved with the football team. When I was deciding on schools, I watched some of his highlights on youtube and was just blown away with his speed and athleticism, and the past 2 years have been no different.

As we all know, he has ridiculous speed but also great hands and the ability to attract defenders, which opens up the field for other receivers - it's a tough choice for a D coordinator to make whether to cover him or watch him burn you. I think he will have a long and successful career in the NFL, and I just hope he falls into a system that can utilize his assets.

Darrius, thanks for the memories and best of luck.

Posted by: DoronTam | January 8, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Any word on the Josh Portis transfer to California(Pa) ?

Posted by: fzuylen | January 8, 2009 4:46 AM | Report abuse

seems like a good kid... but this is a huge mistake. maybe 3rd rounder? good luck... hope i'm wrong, but i didn't see an nfl receiver this year.

Posted by: mcmelton | January 9, 2009 5:42 AM | Report abuse

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