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Tuck decides against fifth year, will enter NFL draft

Heather VanHoegarden | Monday, January 17, 2005

After breaking the career sack record at Notre Dame, defensive end Justin Tuck has decided to take his talents to the next level.Tuck announced Friday afternoon that he has made himself available for the 2005 NFL draft.”After much thought and consideration, I have decided to make myself eligible for selection in the upcoming NFL Draft and will not return to Notre Dame for a fifth season,” Tuck said in a statement. “The coaching staff at Notre Dame did a great job preparing me for the NFL. Coach Willingham and coach Mattison, along with the rest of the staff, have been a very positive influence in my personal growth on and off the field. I know that I’m ready to test my skills and meet the challenges of the National Football League. I’d like to thank the Notre Dame community, the students, the faculty, the alumni, and all of my teammates for their outstanding support.”Tuck, an academic senior with one year of eligibility remaining, will graduate in May with a degree in business management/entrepreneurship from the Mendoza College of Business.”That’s the No. 1 focus,” Tuck said Sunday night on WSBT’S “Sports Dawgz.” “My main focus was getting my degree.”The Kellyton, Alabama native is the Notre Dame leader in career sacks with 24.5 in his three year career. He also holds the single season mark, set in 2003 when he recorded 13.5 sacks. Tuck said he took into consideration many factors when deciding whether or not to enter the draft, including how high he would be drafted. He said Sunday night that he expects to go late first-round or early second round when the draft approaches.”Anytime you have an opportunity like this one, it’s an opportunity that few people get,” Tuck said Sunday night on the show. “There’s really no guarantees going out or coming back but I did my research and I feel like it’s the best decision for me and my family.”Tuck said the coaching change didn’t play a large role in his decision to turn pro.”Anytime you have a coaching change of that magnitude it will affect a decision, but the new staff really reached out to me,” Tuck said on the show. “I know this staff is going to be a great staff so it didn’t really have that much of an effect.”After having off-season knee surgery, Tuck saw his numbers decrease this year.He recorded 73 tackles in 2003, including 19 tackles for a loss. However, this season, facing constant double teams, Tuck registered just 47 tackles, including 14 for a loss and six sacks in 11 games. He sat out the Dec. 28 Insight Bowl nursing a sore knee.This season, despite the decline in his numbers, Tuck was named Notre Dame’s Most Valuable Player.”I just want to reflect back on all the good things,” he said on the show. “My time here has been great.”