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College football

Grossman will leave Florida to enter draft

Gators quarterback decides to skip his senior season and move on to the NFL.

By ANTONYA ENGLISH, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 5, 2003

GAINESVILLE -- After more than a month of soul searching and consulting with family, NFL scouts and officials, Rex Grossman made a decision on his future.

The Florida quarterback will forgo his senior season to enter April's NFL draft. Grossman joins teammate Ian Scott, who announced on Friday that he intends to leave early.

Grossman was expected to make an announcement this week, but after reports surfaced Saturday morning that a decision had been made, Grossman informed UF officials and asked that it be released.

"I have made my decision to enter the 2003 NFL draft and forgo my senior year at the University of Florida," Grossman said in a statement. "It was a very difficult decision for me because I love being a Gator and the whole program has been so good to me. I would like to thank coach (Ron) Zook, coach (Steve) Spurrier and (athletic director) Jeremy Foley for the opportunity they have given me. I would also like to thank the fans and all my teammates for all of their support. Once a Gator always a Gator."

Grossman has scheduled a news conference for 3 p.m. Monday. Florida awaits a decision from one other starter, defensive end Clint Mitchell of Clearwater. Mitchell hinted last week that the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl could be his last game, and several teammates have said he is leaving.

As for where he might be drafted, Grossman said during preparations for the Outback Bowl: "I've heard everything from the third round or the fourth to the first round or the second. It's all over the place."

The 22-year-old from Bloomington, Ind., was the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season but struggled early in a new system this season. Grossman rallied and finished 287-of-503 for 3,402 yards, 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He broke Florida's single-season record for attempts and completions, set by Shane Matthews in 1992. In three seasons, Grossman completed 677 of 1,110 passes for 9,164 yards, with 77 touchdown passes and 36 interceptions. He is 23-8 as a starter.

Saturday afternoon, Zook said he wishes nothing but the best for Grossman.

"I got close to him in a short period of time," said Zook, whose first season ended 8-5 with a 38-30 loss to Michigan in the Outback Bowl. "Like all Gators, I'm appreciative of what Rex has done for this university."

Collegiate underclassmen have until 6 p.m. on Jan. 15 to declare for the draft and can withdraw their name until Jan. 18.

While this marks the end of one era for the Gators, it might also be the beginning of another: starring Chris Leak.

At approximately 8:30 tonight, Leak, a high school quarterback from Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, is expected to announce the college he will attend next season. It will be made at halftime of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, an all-star contest for 78 of the nation's top prep recruits. The game is at 7 in San Antonio, Texas, and will be televised on ESPN2.

Leak is the USA Today national high school player of the year, and for the past several weeks the Gators have been rumored to be at the top of his list, which includes Iowa, Florida State, Texas and Southern Cal.

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Leak passed for 5,193 yards and 64 touchdowns -- both state records -- and on Friday was named the North Carolina prep player of the year by the Associated Press in a unanimous vote.

Florida has two quarterbacks who will compete for the starting job this spring: backup Ingle Martin and Gavin Dickey, a Tallahassee native who redshirted this season.

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