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January 8, 2007
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ATLANTA - Georgia Tech receiver Calvin Johnson announced Monday that he will enter the NFL draft, giving up his final college season for the chance to be one of the top players selected.
The decision was hardly a surprise. Johnson had long been expected to pass up his senior season with the Yellow Jackets, and he did little to change that perception during a brilliant junior year.
Johnson was chosen to The Associated Press All-America team and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
"It was the logical thing to do," said his father, Calvin Johnson Sr. "He would have been doing himself a disservice if he didn't go."
The younger Johnson made his announcement at Georgia Tech's football complex, flanked by his father, mother Arika and sister Erica. While he came to college talking about his desire to play four years and get his degree, he had the full support of his family in leaving for the NFL.
"This is the best way to go," said the receiver, who assured his parents that he will complete his degree. "I had a great time here at Tech. It's been a tough decision. But I made the choice to leave."
Coach Chan Gailey, who has interviewed for the Miami Dolphins coaching vacancy, said he first talked with Johnson about his pro options over the summer. They didn't talk about it again until after the season.
"I wasn't surprised," Gailey said. "He's been a great decision-maker the whole time he was here. I would love to have him back, but this is the best decision for him."
In his final college game, Johnson had nine catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-35 loss to West Virginia in the Gator Bowl. He finished with 76 receptions for 1,202 yards and 15 touchdowns this season.
"What can you say about Calvin Johnson?" West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We knew coming in he was going to be dangerous, but he just ran over top of us."
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Johnson has the size that NFL scouts are looking for and is also extremely athletic. He runs a 4.4 40-yard dash and has a 45-inch vertical leap - a combination makes him difficult to defend, even with a scheme keyed to stop him.
He thrived at Georgia Tech even while facing persistent double-teaming and working three seasons with an inconsistent quarterback, Reggie Ball, who usually struggled to complete half his passes.
Johnson's teammates were hoping he would return, but they knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity to move on to the NFL.
"I knew he was gone," running back Tashard Choice said. "The big guy has got to go. It's time."
By all accounts, Johnson will be one of the top players selected in the April draft. In fact, he could go first overall to the Oakland Raiders, who are desperate to improve an offense that averaged just 10.5 points a game and might not bring back disgruntled wideouts Randy Moss and Jerry Porter.
For more coverage of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, check out JacketsOnline.com.
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